Here’s why Netflix isn’t investing in VR anytime soon

Netflix is going to let other companies take the risk on VR, with its VP of Product Innovation, Todd Yellin, telling TechRadar that there was no point being three steps ahead of the game. 

Confirming that the company was not actively producing VR content at the moment, Yellin explained that he wanted to be sure that VR storytelling – outside of gaming – was established before he committed to the medium. 

“I am not ready to take the dive into VR," he told TechRadar at the Netflix showcase in Barcelona.  “We’re watching from the sidelines."

He continued: “I watch as much VR as I can see, and I want to see what’s out there. I want it to be proven that there is a language out there, that you can tell stories in a compelling way that’s not just a gimmick. I also want to get an install base where it touches enough Netflix users who are using VR. 

“Until that happens, or until we feel like we’re close and only one half-step away, and I don’t think we’re one step away just yet.” 

Netflix – what’s next, as long as it’s not risky

One step beyond

Yellin expanded on what he believes was the key factors in deciding what, and what not, to spend time on.

“What I tell [my team] is that it’s not very useful to be three steps ahead, because when you’re three steps ahead you’re running an R&D thing and doing cool stuff that never really helps your business or your consumer,” said Yellin. “And we want stuff to help the consumer." 

“I want to be one-half to one-step ahead, which is why we’re doing stuff that’s about to come to fruition but we’re a step ahead from everybody else and we’re doing stuff that’s super interesting.

“So you’ve got to make bets and guesses, and a good guess is we’re very bullish on HDR so we show you that. We’re obviously bullish about what we’re showing you on all these great encodes [to improve streaming content].”

3D was a mistake

Yellin believes that Netflix got it wrong when the streaming giant bowed to pressure from their partners to produce 3D content, and is not keen to repeat the error. 

“I remember all the days when I used to go to CES, and for years they are saying ‘3D! 3D is awesome’," said Yellin. 

“So to keep our partners happy, and I won’t mention which ones, but the obvious ones we had to go and invest a little bit in 3D content and I was always like, ’this is never going to be a thing’.

“I don’t like doing things like that because it’s an opportunity cost on what we could be doing, so sometimes we’re wrong and sometimes my guesses on how to guide the team and the team itself guess too aggressively. 

"So if we believe that we’re more than a step away from [it being popular], then we won’t go in.”  


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