Netflix chasing TikTok isn't a magic formula for more eyes and higher adoption

Netflix house at MWC
Netflix house at MWC (Image credit: Android Central)

Netflix is a good place to stream movies or shows and has done a great job making its own content. I use the service like many do, and I have to say I'm pretty satisfied with it. It's cheap, gives me a lot of entertainment, and runs on the best Android phones and almost everything with an internet connection just like Skyrim does.

But 2021 has been a weird year for the service where it's hatched a couple of schemes to try and offer different kinds of content, like games or TikTok-style shorts. It's not finished apparently because the company has confirmed to TechCrunch that it will be bringing Netflix Kids Clips, which are short videos for (you guessed it) kids. I can't help but think this whole idea of chasing TikTok is pretty silly.

A look at TikTok and it's pretty clear why it's successful: Its mobile-first launched everywhere all at once and has a top-secret algorithm that decides what it recommends for you. Three things that Netflix lacks.

Kids Clips (OK, that's a pretty good name.) will launch on iOS in the U.S., Latin America, Canada, Australia, and Ireland, with no word on when it will come to Android or the rest of the world. Your kids (or you if you're a fan of Netflix's kids' programming) will only be allowed to watch 10 to 20 minutes of video at a time, and the videos are horizontal, which makes sense if you think of a small child holding an expensive phone in its little paws.

Netflix has to do something, but I don't think this is it.

This is the same formula Netflix used to introduce its first TikTok-inspired feature called Fast Laughs, so presumably, this sort of rollout works best for the company. So far, everything kind of makes sense because TikTok is probably crushing Netflix and every other video service when it comes to engagement with short video clips.

Netflix is not TikTok, though, and trying to bring these features sounds like a good way to cheapen its brand to me.

I can't blame the company for really wanting a slice of the mobile pie. When Netflix was just a great idea inside a few great minds, nobody knew how quickly mobile would become the de facto way of seeing and doing everything. You can do anything from shop online to pay your taxes to loan a friend $20 using your phone, and a whole lot of people are doing this and more from the computer they can hold in their hand. So Netflix has to be thirsty if it wants to grow.

Nobody could have predicted mobile would grow so fast.

The problem, much like it is for Netflix's mobile gaming plans, is better ways to do all of the things Netflix plans already exists, and it's following instead of leading. Netflix is never going to out-TikTok, TikTok. Nor will it be able to compete with Apple's App Store or Google Play when it comes to games (presuming that feature eventually finds a way to satiate Apple's hunger for 30% of everything not glued down) unless it can do something different and better. Unfortunately, what we've seen so far is neither.


Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

I think TikTok is absolutely pointless and dumb, which is exactly why I like it. Pointless and dumb short video clips can be an awesome way to kill an hour, and if you have never checked out the service, you probably should pay close attention to the data collection and privacy policies. This is why TikTok became the phenomenon it is; it's different and offers something people enjoy.

TikTok is dumb, and that's part of what makes it great. Don't hate on them for it.

Netflix may have short programming that people enjoy, too. Maybe you love watching the short Fast Laughs videos on your phone, and many kids will spend a lot of hours holding Mommy's iPhone and watching Kids Clips (that is such a great name, though). But neither idea is different or offers anything new. TikTok has a gazillion short funny clips, while Amazon and YouTube offer quality kids' programming in 20-minute bursts. And trust me, your kids don't care if they watch one 20-minute Peppa Pig video or a handful of three-minute Peppa Pig clips.

Netflix TV

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Transitioning from the big screen to mobile isn't going to be easy for Netflix because the service was born to entertain people from the comforts of their television. Netflix is still a great streaming service for your television. And it's even good enough to stand on its own next to all the competition. Ideas like offering full seasons of popular shows and producing high-quality content have ensured we still watch Netflix. However, I don't know how Netflix can do the same when it comes to mobile.

Chasing TikTok to make me want more Netflix on my phone probably isn't going to work as well. Of course, I have no money invested in Netflix, so none of this affects me. But I expect better ideas from people whose only job is to come up with great new ideas.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.