Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Netflix found a way to play ball with Apple but still keep its key data a secret

Netflix TV App

Back in October during Apple’s MacBook Pro unveiling, the company took some time away from its Mac lineup to unveil a new app called “TV.” Not Apple TV, just TV. The new app was introduced as a catch-all for online video streaming services, giving users a single portal through which they would be able to access all of the movies and TV shows from all of their favorite online streaming services. Well, not exactly all of their favorite services were supported, and therein lied the problem: Netflix, the most popular TV and movie streaming service in the country, was not supported.

We explained why Netflix had no interest in being involved with Apple’s new TV app at launch, and at the time it seemed unlikely that the company would ever be onboard with the TV app. Well, the good news for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV users is that Netflix has had a change of heart and has made its content accessible in the TV app. The bad news is that the company hasn’t gone all-in with the TV app, and there are some huge limitations that fans won’t be happy with at all.

Beginning with the company’s iOS app update released earlier this week, Netflix has made its extensive catalog of content searchable and streamable from within Apple’s new TV app. Most of it, at least.

As we explained back in October, Netflix’s streaming data is hugely valuable to the company. It’s a secret sauce, of sorts. The beauty of Netflix’s architecture compare to conventional TV is that it knows exactly how many people stream each program. It knows when they stream a movie or show, what they stream next, and what they’re likely to enjoy as a result of their viewing history. That data is a goldmine, allowing Netflix to focus on licensing content — and more importantly, creating original content — that its subscribers will enjoy. Netflix’s success rate with its original content is proof that the system works.

For that reason, Netflix keeps its usage data under lock and key. The company doesn’t even share viewership data with the production teams behind its original shows, let alone with the outside world. But by integrating with Apple’s TV app, Netflix would be giving Apple access to at least a portion of its data — Apple would obviously know each time a user searched for and streamed something from Netflix’s catalog.

Well, it turns out that Netflix had a change of heart. Beginning this week, a large portion of Netflix’s catalog has been made accessible in the TV app. Users can search for content and streaming it right from inside the app, just like they can with other popular services like HBO Go. The caveat — and it’s a huge caveat — is that Netflix’s most desirable content cannot be found through Apple’s TV app: No original Netflix shows or movies are accessible in the TV app for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.

It looks like Netflix is willing to give Apple access to some less important data, but there’s precious little chance that any company will get its paws on even a small portion of viewership numbers for Netflix’s original content… least of all Apple, which has confirmed that it’s entering the market with original TV shows of its own.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content.

Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment. His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.