I’m not a Netflix user myself, but I know many of my readers are, and a frequent complain was the inability to play Full HD or 4K content, except on specific devices such as WeTek Core or Nvidia Shield Android TV. Until now, I thought most TV box manufacturers did not get DRM and Netflix support to reduce costs, but after reading one article about this very subject on AndroidPCReview, I realized it was more complicated than that.
Beside the obvious hardware requirements that you need a Full HD or 4K capable player and television, the device needs to be certified by Google, and Widevine Level 1 DRM is required to stream anything above SD resolution from premium apps such as HBO Go or Netflix.
However while many devices are certified by Google, only a few are officially supported by Netflix. The company also ranks device by categories such as Smart TVs, Smartphones & tablets, and within the “streaming media players” category only Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV (2015), British Telecom BT DTRT-4000, TiVo Bolt, Google Nexus Player and NVIDIA Shield are said to be supported.
If you run Android on a media player, it will likely be considered as a tablet, and you allegedly need to run Android TV on your media player for it to considered for certification. But since WeTek Core is simply running Android 5.1, and supports Netflix Full HD video playback (but maybe not 4K), there may be exceptions to this rule…
So the biggest problem with Full HD or/and 4K support in Netflix is the need for Netflix certification. One relatively well-known Android TV box manufacturer has been trying for 2 to 3 years, and unfortunately Netflix simply does not want to work with them.
One of the reason might be because it’s a small company not selling million of units in the US per year. It’s very common that companies don’t want to sell, work or even talk to you if you don’t have a significant volume projections, but if you do they’ll even invite you for lunch or dinner regularly… This is because every company has to manage their resources carefully, but we don’t exactly what the workload on Netflix is to certify one device. The company in question is probably roughly the same size as WeTek, so it might depend on your business relationship too, not only volume or company size… Another reason could be that the company in question in based on Asia, albeit in a “country” with a decent IP protection record, and Netflix might be wary to give their secret DRM sauce to regions of the world it might not trust.
So the takeaway here is that if you want to have Netflix Full HD or 4K in your Android device, you’ll have to buy a certified device, and Neflix won’t be found on low cost Android TV boxes, not because the manufacturers want to cut costs and/or don’t go through the certification process, but simply because Netflix won’t let them in in their “closed system”.
Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.