Apple’s AirPlay streaming protocol may be gaining new friends from the likes of Samsung and LG, but it has just lost a major partner – Netflix. The on-demand video streaming app has confirmed that it has removed support for AirPlay, citing ‘technical limitations’ to the protocol, although it’s likely more to do with Apple having recently launched its own streaming video service that will compete with Netflix.
Netflix has supported AirPlay on its iOS app since 2011, but just a few days ago users began noticing that they could no longer fling the latest series of Santa Clarita Diet from their iPhone to their Apple TV. Sure enough, Apple had updated its FAQs with a notice confirming that AirPlay had been dropped.
In a statement, Netflix noted, “We want to make sure our members have a great Netflix experience on any device they use. With AirPlay support rolling out to third-party devices, there isn’t a way for us to distinguish between devices (what is an Apple TV vs. what isn’t) or certify these experiences. Therefore, we have decided to discontinue Netflix AirPlay support to ensure our standard of quality for viewing is being met. Members can continue to access Netflix on the built-in app across Apple TV and other devices.”
That statement sounds like Netflix is concerned that third-party manufacturers gaining access to AirPlay will mean the company cannot guarantee that its streaming service will be consistent across all devices, although there’s an issue with that claim. That’s because Netflix also supports Chromecast, a protocol available on countless third-party devices from big name manufacturers such as Sony to lesser-known manufacturers like Polaroid; not to mention the countless knock-off Android TV boxes. How can the company claim it cannot control a consistent experience on the small expansion of AirPlay yet still support Chromecast?
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Netflix will claim that this is a technical limitation, but the timing of this announcement is surely suspect. After all, Netflix was one of the streaming services to snub Apple’s new TV app, while Apple is also encroaching on Netflix’s dominance with its new Apple TV+ on-demand video streaming service. In a statement to The Verge, the company noted that the decision to drop AirPlay was ‘not a business competition play’, however.
So, could there be another reason behind Netflix dropping AirPlay and retaining Chromecast? Well, yes, because AirPlay support isn’t exactly crucial. Those with an Apple TV are still able to watch Netflix content by simply opening the app, while those TVs gaining support for AirPlay all feature their own Netflix apps. With those apps, Netflix not only control how content is displayed on the TV, it can also gain access to crucial user data that Apple doesn’t share via AirPlay.
Netflix couldn’t make the decision to drop the Chromecast protocol, as it was the only way to get Netflix working on non-smart TVs that have a Chromecast dongle connected to it – meaning the company would potentially lose customers. That’s unlikely to happen with the removal of AirPlay, so don’t expect it to return anytime soon.