Netflix is exploring vertical video to entice viewers on mobile

Horizontal isn’t always best.
Horizontal isn’t always best.
Image: Netflix
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Netflix is exploring short, Snapchat-style vertical video on mobile, it announced Wednesday. The internet-TV company says the format is a more natural fit for phones and could help people discover new TV shows and movies faster.

The streaming-video giant is taking a page from rivals like Snapchat and Facebook by rolling out vertical TV and movie trailers in its mobile app. Netflix viewers will soon have a row of TV and movie previews to choose from amidst the title recommendations typically served up by the app. Users can tap on a title to watch the trailer, which will fill the vertical smartphone screen.

From within the video, viewers can swipe left or right to see other trailers, press play to watch the full movie or series, or add the title to their Netflix list. The full-length programs will remain in the horizontal format that’s standard for TV, and are better for extended viewing. The previews, like other content recommendations on Netflix, will be personalized to each user.

Image: Netflix

Video clips, Netflix says, are the best way to entice people to watch new TV shows and movies. Vertical video is the quickest and most intuitive way to do so on a phone. ”We look at conventional ways people use mobile and we take it to internet TV in a unique way,” said Todd Yellin, vice president of product. “We’re super excited video previews, in an elegant way, will be coming to the phone experience.”

The video clips are just 30-seconds long compared to an average 2 minute and 10 second trailer. Brevity tested better on mobile. Netflix plans to launch clips for “many hundreds of titles” on the platform, including Netflix originals and licensed content. Netflix hired video editors to cut the mobile trailers.

The streaming-video service introduced video previews in other devices like TVs and computers in December 2016 and spent the better part of a year figuring out how to make trailers work seamlessly on smartphones.

Mobile and tablet devices account for less than 20% of Netflix’s viewing hours globally, Yellin said. But more than half of Netflix members use the service on mobile monthly.

The feature will roll out on iOS devices first, followed by Android, “in the coming months,” Netflix said.