Android is the best-selling smartphone platform in the United States right now. Netflix’s streaming video strategy revolves around support for popular devices. So why can’t Android and Netflix get together? Digital rights management, or lack thereof.
In a blog post, Greg Peters of Netflix product development explained that the company really wants to launch on Android devices. “The hurdle,” he said, “has been the lack of a generic and complete platform security and content protection mechanism available for Android.”
In other words, Hollywood doesn’t like the way Android does DRM, and Netflix is powerless without Hollywood’s go-ahead. On the bright side, Netflix will work with individual handset makers to satisfy Hollywood’s needs, so while you won’t see a Netflix Android app any time soon, certain Android phones — and tablets, one hopes — will get their own Instant Watch video players early next year.
I sense a bit of politics at work here.
Peters only described Hollywood’s issue with Android in vague terms. “The same security issues that have led to piracy concerns on the Android platform have made it difficult for us to secure a common Digital Rights Management (DRM) system on these devices,” he wrote. Is this a reference to app piracy issues? To the hacking of streaming video apps like NFL Mobile? Hard to say without specifics.
Even though we don’t know what the problem is, exactly, the news puts pressure on Google to do something, lest there be more of the “f” word that has dogged Android in the eyes of tech watchers. “Unfortunately, [working with phone makers] is a much slower approach and leads to a fragmented experience on Android, in which some handsets will have access to Netflix and others won’t,” Peters wrote. “This clearly is not the preferred solution, and we regret the confusion it might create for consumers.”
It’s fun to imagine that quote as a scene out of a mob movie. Google’s the leading mayoral candidate in a corrupt town. Netflix and Hollywood studios are the gangsters. Gee, Google, without DRM, the only way we can support you is by slicing up the platform among select phone makers. What’s the word? Oh yes, “fragmentation.” You wouldn’t want to see more of that, now would you, Google?
What they don’t show you in mob movies are all the everyday people who suffer.