The fine folks at Netflix advertised their first foray into an interactive streaming experience with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on December 27th. The release of the movie the following day came with an undisclosed caveat; the movie can’t be watched on Apple TV and Chromecast devices. We discovered this deficiency within an hour of the MacRumors article that highlighted this issue.
While this limitation could theoretically be accepted for the third generation units that did not possess a dedicated App Store, voice interface, touchpad remote or support for Bluetooth controllers, to experience this fail on a fourth generation Apple TV (or an Apple TV 4K) is certainly unacceptable. Based on the 2012 release date of the third generation hardware, limitations of a single-core A5 CPU and absence of an available app ecosystems, Netflix would get a pass. However, it’s pure laziness or a lack of proper preparation on Netflix’s behalf when the newer fourth generation platform shares commonality with iOS and contains ample performance capability.
Before the Netflix account is cancelled, the movie was tested on a 2018 iPad. The concept has some novel branches but ends up being disruptive to the experience. Some choices have minor continuity implications to later scenes in the movie, while other branches don’t appear to be fully fleshed out. It’s not a bad experiment except for the fact that Netflix failed to recognize that they automatically excluded a portion of their viewing audience based on sales data. Engagement with customer service was lackluster to say the least. Any acknowledgement that their verbiage and disclaimer as to why this movie doesn’t “work” with Apple TV or Chromecast was missing entirely in the chat session we established.
While there may be a possibility that Netflix will modify the tvOS app to support this type of content (and future implementations if this is a direction that they’re going), there have been too many poor decisions without a viable explanation in 2018. The overabundance of “everyone gets a comedy special”, when paired with the abrupt cancellation of the various Marvel series (Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and – theoretically – Punisher and Jessica Jones once they air their next season), demonstrates their inability to maintain franchises consistently. The half-completed efforts for Arrested Development, shorter episode seasons of marquee shows, and the impending loss of a non-trivial portion of Netflix’s content library creates an opening for alternative services to take a slice of market share for good.
To quote any of the “sharks” from Shark Tank when they’re excluding their potential to invest in a product, “We’re out”.