Announced on the official Netflix blog today, the development team behind the streaming video service is launching a brand new interface for Smart TV platforms as well as Roku set-top boxes, connected Blu-ray players and gaming consoles like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. In development for the last year and a half, the new interface has some similarities to the Hulu Plus layout, specifically the adoption of widescreen art over standard box art to display content choices.
When asked about the changes in an interview with USA Today, Netflix VP of product innovation Chris Jaffe said “We want discovery to be richer. I knew one of my personal frustrations was I felt like today’s Netflix experience didn’t give me enough reasons for why I should watch this vs. that…This is about the interface of Netflix getting out of the way and allowing the user to connect with the movie or TV show.”
As the user cycles through content choices, the upper half of the screen displays large artwork of the television show or movie on the right as well as the star rating, description and friends that like the show on the left. This interface allows the user to get a synopsis of the show and recommendations without having to select the content and load a new screen. After selecting a television show, the user will be able to cycle through episodes and see the descriptions as well as episode-specific stills. That feature is extremely similar to the layout of Netflix original content, like House of Cards, on the Web version of Netflix Instant.
Regarding other changes, the search function within the application has been overhauled to bring up visual results rather than text, ideal for large televisions. In addition, the Netflix for Kids section of the application has been tinted a blue color as a visual cue for parents that want to make sure their child isn’t watching adult content. This means Netflix profile support will be included on all devices as well. Finally, support for voice activation has been added on the Xbox 360 as well as “pointer-based navigation” for smart televisions.
Unfortunately, people that watch Netflix on their desktop or laptop computer, smartphone or tablet device, Apple TV set-top box or Nintendo consoles won’t be receiving the new interface immediately. It’s possible that the new interface could launch on these platforms at a later date, but Netflix hasn’t commented on those platforms as of yet. Netflix also left the Xbox One off the launch list, perhaps an oversight if the Xbox 360 version is compatible.
Regarding the launch, the new interface will start rolling out to compatible devices on November 13, 2013 and gradually become available within the next two weeks. As always, updates to the Netflix application on Smart TVs and Blu-Ray players will be dependent on manufacturers. Roku 3 owners should be able to access the updated application immediately, but Roku 2 owners will have to wait until early 2014 for the updated interface.