Netflix – Not fit for purpose?
January 5, 2016 1 Comment
One of my family has a Netflix account. The account is accessible from any of the desktop and laptop computers in the house, whichever OS they are running.
Recently we bought a so-called ‘smart TV’ (an LG 40UF770V 4K Ultra HD TV, as it happens), and are pleased with it. It runs WebOS 2.0 (yay, Linux!) and the LG Content Store contains a Netflix app, which we promptly installed. The app worked perfectly for several weeks but then stopped being able to access Netflix. When the app was launched, the usual screen with the Netflix logo and the ‘Loading’ rotating indicator would appear but, after a minute or so, an error message would be displayed informing us that Netflix error ‘ui-113’ had occurred. One of the on-screen options then offered by the app was to check the network connection, which we tried, but everything was reported to be working correctly. Not to mention that all the other apps that require an Internet connection work fine. In order to watch a film using Netflix over the Christmas period we had to resort to connecting a laptop to the TV via an HDMI cable and accessing Netflix in a Web browser on the laptop. It is ridiculous to have to resort to such measures to view content on smart TVs which have Netflix apps.
I searched the Web and discovered that many, many people experience the same problem with Netflix and smart TVs. As in our case, they had no trouble accessing their Netflix account on their home network with other devices such as computers, tablets and smart phones. I came across reports by owners of smart TVs made by LG, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and other manufacturers. People who had contacted the relevant TV manufacturer were often told the problem is caused by Netflix, and people who had contacted Netflix were often told the problem is caused by the TV manufacturer.
Netflix has a Help page for this error message, but none of the steps Netflix listed worked, and neither did any of the remedies suggested by others on the Web (including in various YouTube videos). Resetting the TV did not solve the problem. Neither did cycling the mains power to the TV, broadband modem and router (however long the power was off). Nor did changing the TV’s setting for the IP address of the DNS server to one of the well-known public DNS servers such as Google’s. Nor did suggestions such as un-installing and re-installing the Netflix app. Nor did configuring the router to perform port forwarding for Netflix on the TV (not that this should be necessary, but I tried it anyway). Several people wrote that the parental lock in their routers caused the problem, but the parental lock is definitely not enabled in my router. I also tried to access Netflix via the TV’s Web browser; it can log-in to the Netflix account but cannot play content as it does not support the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in or HTML5 required by Netflix.
Nothing we tried solved the problem, and two weeks of this messing around was exasperating. Some people reported that changing the DNS server address in the TV to Google’s DNS servers worked, whereas others reported it didn’t. Even if some lucky person managed to get Netflix working on their smart TV using a certain procedure, other people in the same country with the same model of TV could not, even if they used the same procedure.
In addition to people in a given country trying to get the Netflix app in their smart TV to access their Netflix account in that country, I came across posts by people wanting to access Netflix in a different country (mostly people not in the USA wanting to access US Netflix because it offers a wider range of films and programmes, but also expatriates wanting to access Netflix for their home country with their home-country Netflix account). So I tried recommendations to configure the TV to use a DNS server in the US that some people in the UK had recently indicated would give the Netflix app access to US Netflix rather than UK Netflix (even though we wanted to access UK Netflix from the UK). But that didn’t work either.
However, I didn’t give up. I trawled the Web for lists of DNS servers that some people claimed would give access to Netflix in the UK. I found various Web sites listing IP addresses for DNS servers and tried several of them. Eventually I found one that actually enables the Netflix app in the TV to work, but it accesses US Netflix instead of UK Netflix. Given that the Netflix app has not worked for several weeks, I’m not complaining, but it is not what we were trying to achieve (US Netflix does not provide all the UK TV series available on UK Netflix). Furthermore, according to some of the posts I’ve read, periodically you have to change the DNS server address in the TV because Netflix stops working with the existing address.
Now, I’m a technically-oriented person and it took me several hours over a two-week period to find a solution (well, a work-around). Someone with little or no IT knowledge in the same situation would be at a complete loss as to how to get their Netfix account working. In order for streaming media services to become as ubiquitous as e.g. terrestrial TV, they have to be reliable and be accessible easily to paying customers. Use of Geolocation, GeoDNS and other complex techniques should not cause such a headache to bona fide users. Someone with a Netflix account in his/her country of residence and who simply wants to access Netflix on a smart TV should not have to jump through hoops or hit a brick wall. Clearly this is happening to many people.
On top of that, people such as myself who have to travel internationally frequently because of their work need to be certain that, if they subscribe to a streaming media service, it will work in whatever country they happen to be in at the time (except if blocked by Great Firewalls or content filters on proxy servers, of course) and not be purposely or inadvertently prevented from working by the media service provider’s network concept.
I myself had considered signing up for a Netflix account so that I could view films and TV programmes during my overseas work trips, but, after having to struggle for days to help a family member access a valid Netflix account on a smart TV in the country where the account was set up, will definitely not be giving Netflix my business. In this day and age it is ridiculous that users should have to try umpteen DNS server addresses and reset TVs, routers and modems in order to access their account with a media provider. Services such as Netflix will never have my business until their networking and DRM are sorted out properly and made to work reliably. Until Netflix changes its network delivery model, its service will remain a curate’s egg in my opinion.