LOS ANGELES: Netflix users can no longer launch videos or control playback on Apple TVs or other AirPlay-compatible devices from the streamer's iOS app, a change Netflix says is due to "technical limitations" and not a business disagreement with Apple.
Netflix first added support for Apple's AirPlay in 2013. AirPlay is Apple's content-sharing feature that lets users play videos, photos, music and other media from iOS devices on Apple TV and select AirPlay 2-enabled TVs and smart speakers.
Now, according to an update on Netflix's support site, "Airplay is no longer supported for use with Netflix due to technical limitations." The drop of AirPlay support in Netflix's iOS app was first spotted by MacRumors, which found that attempting to access the feature resulted in an error message.
A Netflix spokeswoman said the company decided to phase out support for AirPlay because Apple is extending the feature to devices in addition to Apple TV - and Netflix is unable to guarantee its service will work on those third-party devices.
"We want to make sure our members have a great Netflix experience on any device they use," the rep said in an email. "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."
Netflix continues to be available on directly on Apple TV devices (second generation models and later) via a native app, according to Netflix's site.
Netflix says the discontinuation of AirPlay support from its iOS app doesn't stem from any business disagreement between the two companies. That may be, but the change comes as Apple is gearing up to compete head-to-head with Netflix.
At a splashy, celeb-studded event two weeks ago, Apple announced Apple TV+, its own subscription-streaming service that represents a direct rival to Netflix. Apple's subscription VOD lineup will include original content from Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, JJ Abrams and Sesame Street. The tech giant says Apple TV+ will launch in fall 2019, but hasn't announced pricing or other details.
Apple also announced a redesigned Apple TV app that provides a unified experience for accessing TV shows, movies and third-party services across iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, smart TVs and streaming devices. Slated to launch in May 2019, the updated Apple TV app includes a "channels" storefront that will sell a-la-carte subscriptions to HBO, Showtime, Starz, Epix, CBS All Access, Noggin and others - but not Netflix.
Netflix has opted to not work with Apple to integrate the streaming service into in the updated TV offering, according to CEO Reed Hastings.
At a press event last month, Hastings explained that Netflix wants to control the user experience within its own app, which is why it isn't working with Apple. "Apple is a great company," Hastings told reporters, but said, "We have chosen not to integrate into their services."