One of the areas in which the tech world is highly focused on right now is virtual reality. This is a new and emerging platform and one which seems to have really caught hold of consumer and media attention. Part of this is thanks to virtual reality having already caught the attention of the manufacturers and the subsequent race to be one of the first to bring a virtual reality product to market. Be it hardware-focused or software-based. In terms of the latter, many apps and services are already looking to virtual reality as the next place to engage with their customers. In the video streaming sphere, Hulu being a prime example. However, when it comes to the company most would consider to be the leader in the streaming world, Netflix, the company seems far less interested in the race. In fact, according to Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings & Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, Netflix is “more focused on a lean-back, relaxing experience.”
The reason for Netflix’s more relaxed approach was provided in an interview with Venture Beat by Hastings and Sarandos and goes along two particular lines of thinking. The first of which is consumer demand, or more accurately, consumer availability. Netflix is big and recently announced it will get bigger as it is expanding to another 130 markets. In contrast, the VR-ready market is significantly smaller and it is this gap between the size of Netflix’s current user base and the user base that virtual reality currently offers, that is simply not that inspiring to Netflix. As Sarandos states, “The problem with VR is that there’s not enough people on the platform to support the investment in that kind of content.”
The second reason given is that Netflix considers traditional Netflix content (video) to be different to what the virtual reality market is currently best at delivering, the experience. On the topic of using VR products, Hastings notes, “You’re exhausted after 20 minutes,” before further adding that Netflix as a company is “more focused on a lean-back, relaxing experience.” As a result, the two Netflix heads view virtual reality as much more of a gaming experience in its current form. Of course, all of this is not to say that Netflix is not interested in virtual reality or toying with the idea, but it is clear that they are not in a rush to be one of the first to market.