Netflix to experiment with DVD-style extra features


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Sure, you get a ton of content when you subscribe to Netflix streaming, but you don't get any behind-the-scenes interviews, commentary, or interesting featurettes. That may soon change, however, as Netflix says it's going to experiment with offering extra features with original shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Arrested Development.

Don't get your hopes up just yet, though. From the sounds of it, Netflix isn’t convinced that offering extra features will be a popular enough option to keep it around for long.

“We'll experiment [with extra features content] around our originals,” said Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president of product innovation during a talk at the GigaOm Mobilize conference on Wednesday. “If it does well we'll go back to our partners that we license a ton of content from. I could see possibly doing some extra content, supplemental content, around that.”

The problem, Yellin argues, is that any content Netflix licenses costs money. If few people are interested in watching the extras, the company’s licensing budget is better spent elsewhere—and Yellin doesn’t sound convinced that extra features will attract a big enough audience. "The core of the experience is watching the story the directors and writers intended," he said.

Second screen stardom

Yellin didn’t offer a date as to when Netflix might start popping some extra features into its original programming. His comments were part of a larger talk about the company’s approach to the so-called “second screen experience.”

The second screen has become a veritable holy grail for content makers and companies that want to integrate smartphones and tablets into your viewing experience. Microsoft is making a big play into the second screen with its Xbox SmartGlass app, which offers additional supplementary content for video games, movies, and TV shows. One popular example was the ability for viewers of HBO’s Game of Thrones to use their tablets to view maps and plot data while watching the show.

Netflix’s approach to the second screen isn’t so lofty. The company doesn’t appear to be putting much stock in supplemental content experiences on smartphones and tablets, saying that only a slim margin of viewers actually used GoT’s second screen experience. Instead, Netflix is more interested in using mobile devices as a remote control that lets you browse for content while watching something on the TV or send new selections to the TV screen—à la Google's Chromecast dongle.

Another option may be to turn your phone into a form of identification when using Netflix—a handy feature if you ever want to login to the service from a friend’s house.

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