More users watch Netflix movies on tablets than PCs

by Phil Hornshaw

Last year, streaming movie service Netflix finally got its Android app released and working reliably on lots of different devices that run Google’s mobile operating system. More than six months later, Netflix has announced that viewing on tablets has surpassed viewing on PCs.

GigaOM has the story. In it, Netflix announced that the service is supported on more than 800 electronic devices, including video game consoles, set top boxes, and most notably, mobile devices. Netflix’s iOS apps, compatible with Apple’s iPhone and iPad, are popular, but as the company has worked on its Android app, it has come to support a pretty high number of tablets and smartphones running on Google’s platform.

That 800-device count is pretty high, given that around the time of the release of the Android app, Netflix only worked on about 450 devices, as GigaOM notes. A huge portion of Netflix viewing takes place on game consoles, since they were some of the earliest devices to make the streaming service available: the PlayStation 3, for example, accounts for some 30 percent of streaming viewership.

But while game consoles make up a big portion of streaming, mobile devices – specifically tablets – are making huge inroads. Already, viewing on tablets has surpassed viewing on PCs, which just a few months ago made up 20 percent of all Netflix streaming traffic. Netflix didn’t release specific numbers, so it sounds like the actual tablet viewership numbers are lower than 20 percent, as tablets have cannibalized the PC streaming subset rather than just straight-up passed it by.

Still, the success and popularity of the iPad as well as Android tablets like the newly released Kindle Fire and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line have led to new ways that Netflix users are consuming content. Given that streaming basically started on PCs, it’s notable that the shift away from PCs and toward tablets has happened so quickly.

Netflix also said that its next big device push will be to smart TVs, or television sets that connect to the Internet and would be perfect for streaming Netflix content without the need for additional devices like game consoles or Roku set-top boxes. Google is pushing in that direction too, bringing Android-like capabilities to TV sets. So is Samsung, for example, which already has a TV that supports game apps, including Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. 2.

Portions of 2011 were pretty rough for Netflix, with the Qwikster debacle as well as a few other PR missteps, but the company seems to be seeing success in offering strong service on lots of devices. It seems Android device owners should be able to expect to watch movies and TV shows on their tablets and smartphones from now on, which will likely continue to change the landscape of how that content is consumed.