In the world of media streaming services, Netflix is the king. Worldwide it has millions of subscribers, it’s established itself as a well-liked brand and it’s flipped from being largely reliant on third-party movie studios to being a production house in its own right — or at least the funding source for plenty of productions, all of which bear the “Netflix Original” logo.
Part of the way that Netflix has become so pervasive is by ensuring that its service is available on just about every device and platform, whether you’re watching on a computer, mobile phone, gaming console, TV set-top box or smart TV.
Up until recently, if you had an iOS device, such an an iPad or iPhone, as well as one of Apple’s Apple TV set top boxes, you could start a program on your iPad and then send it immediately to your Apple TV for big-screen watching. It’s a feature that Apple calls “AirPlay”, but just recently, it stopped working altogether for Netflix specifically.
That’s less than handy if your Netflix routine switches between the two platforms, so what’s the story with the incompatibility? It turns out that it’s (essentially) a spat between Netflix and Apple rather than some solid technical incompatibility.
Apple has its own Apple TV+ streaming service coming later this year, but it’s a service that Apple intends to roll out to more than just its Apple TV set top box.
Selected new Smart TVs and some third party set top boxes will gain AirPlay compatibility, and to allow that work, Apple recently updated the underlying AirPlay software on its iOS devices.
The issue for Netflix here is that in doing so, it removed the ability for Netflix to work out what it’s actually being played on. Netflix does some complex work to try to ensure that the video streams you watch match the capabilities of the device you’re watching on as well as the bandwidth you have via your Internet connection.
That’s why when you’re watching a program, you may sometimes see the visuals shift from a more blocky looking presentation to a smoother one, because it’s using more available bandwidth and adjusting for your device on the fly.
The new AirPlay, according to Netflix, makes it impossible for them to tell what they’re streaming to, so they’ve pulled the feature entirely. If you try to use AirPlay to send to an Apple TV right now, you’ll be hit with an error message instead. You haven’t done anything wrong, and there’s nothing explicitly broken in your device or home network.
It’s a power play from Netflix, who have notably said they won’t be part of the Apple TV+ experience, and we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out precisely.
For now, you’re not bereft of Netflix connectivity to speak of, but you’ll have to take just a few more steps for nearly continuous viewing experiences. Netflix is still available for the Apple TV itself (neither Netflix or Apple are quite mad enough to cut that access!), so in order to shift a program from your iPad or iPhone to the Apple TV, you’ll have to stop it on one device and select it on the other.
As long as you’re on the same Netflix profile as you were before, it should detect where you were up to in your show or movie, and relatively quickly get you back up and binge watching.