Netflix’s New Tablet UI Does Not Solve Its Search Problems

Netflix today announced a new user interface for all Android tablets, including both the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook. The interface displays twice as many movies to place in the user queue and is generally a better looking app than it was before. Yet, does the new UI solve some of Netflix’s problems with search and discovery on tablet devices?

One of the biggest problems with Netflix on tablets (the new UI will be coming to the iPad soon) and third-party devices like the Roku is that the search function is not as intuitive as it is on PCs and laptops. For instance, we were watching The Change Up with Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds the other night on the Roku. We then wanted to find more Bateman movies or shows but the search function for the Roku (and Android tablets and the iPad) does not allow users to search by actors, directors or studios. As of this point, the only way to find those movies is to search through the browser.

Hulu Plus is the same way. The only search results that come up are TV show and movie titles. Ultimately, this may be the biggest problem with discovery on either premium streaming content service. Netflix can add as many bells and whistles to the Android tablet UI as it likes, but ultimately it is just a beefier version of the same thing.

How can Netflix solve this problem? One of the best avenues may be a partnership or acquisition. Does Netflix have the liquid capital to make an outright acquisition of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)? That would solve many of Netflix’s discovery problems in a snap. Currently, what a lot of users do is check IMDb independent of Netflix and then go and search for those particular titles. The great thing about IMDb is that it breaks down content by actor, studio, director etc. It is precisely the type of search that Netflix should have on tablets and third-party streaming devices.

Netflix may have had an opportunity earlier this year with the movie app and critic dababase Flixster/Rotten Tomatoes. Warner Bros. snapped up Flixster as part of its content collection, discovery and social network and turned it into an exceptionally horrid desktop app (see our review here). With Netflix’s often tenuous relationship with the major movie studios, Flixster has been closed off to them forever.

The bottom line: It is nice to see a new tablet UI for Netflix, but it does not solve the real problems that users have on devices. What kind of feature do you want to see from Netflix on tablets? Let us know in the comments.

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