Netflix now supports deep Alexa voice controls on Fire TV devices

The Netflix update that many Fire TV owners have been waiting for has arrived. Netflix has just updated their Fire TV app with deeper support for Alexa voice controls. Where before it was only possible to use Alexa to launch the Netflix app, now you can use the voice assistant to jump directly into playing a movie or TV show, control advanced playback in the app, and perform voice searches within Netflix.

The latest version of Netflix on Fire TV devices has finally added full support for the Alexa Video Skill API. This API is what allows Alexa to remotely control video apps and non-Amazon home theater devices. It was first introduced a year ago and was expanded recently with additional capabilities like DVR control.

This update allows Fire TV owners to immediately begin playing Netflix content using their voice through Alexa, among other voice controls. On the Amazon Fire TV Cube, this can be done without needing to pick up the voice remote and without needing an external Alexa device, since the Fire TV Cube has hands-free Alexa capabilities built-in. On other Fire TV models, users will have to either use the Alexa voice remote to issue their commands or use an external Alexa device, like an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, that is paired to their Fire TV.

Saying “Alexa, play Queer Eye” will launch the Netflix app on Fire TV devices and automatically begin playing the series. The same is true when asking for movies that are available on Netflix. On the Fire TV Cube, you can make this request while your TV and A/V equipment is off and the Fire TV Cube’s universal remote capabilities will turn everything on for you and jump right into playing what you requested from Netflix.

If what you request is available from other streaming services that you use, such as Prime Video, Alexa will ask you which service you would like to use to play the content. If you prefer to skip the follow-up question, you can simply add “…on Netflix” to the end of your request.

Once you have something playing on Netflix, whether you started it through Alexa or not, you can now use the voice assistant to control playback. As you’d expect, saying “Alexa, play/pause/stop” is supported to start and stop video playback in the Netflix app. You can also fast forward or rewind by saying “Alexa, skip ahead [#] minutes/seconds” or “Alexa, jump back [#] minutes/seconds.” To start what you’re watching from the beginning, you can say “Alexa, start over” or “Alexa, play from the beginning.”

Netflix has also added support for changing episodes within a series using Alexa. While watching a TV show, you can say “Alexa, next/previous episode” to move forward an episode or move back an episode. There’s currently no way to start playing a specific episode, such as requesting an episode number from a specific season. When you ask to play a show, the first episode you haven’t completed will begin playing. If you’ve previously stopped in the middle of an episode, the episode will resume where you left off.

There’s also support for direct searches within the Netflix app using Alexa. On a Fire TV device, if you ask “Alexa, search for Tom Hank movies” while in the Fire TV interface, you’ll see a universal search for Tom Hanks movies across all services. However, if you make the same request while the Netflix app is open, you’ll be taken to Netflix’s own search results for Tom Hanks movies within the Netflix app. If the Netflix app is not loaded and you want to search within the app, you can always add “…in Netflix” to the search request to always be taken directly to Netflix’s search results.

Netflix’s new Alexa voice capabilities are initialy only available on the Amazon Fire TV Cube and the Fire TV 3 (Pendant). Older Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks will also gain these same Alexa capabilities for Netflix with a future update to the Netflix app. The Netflix app with these new Alexa improvements is labeled as version 5.3.0 on the Fire TV Cube and the Fire TV 3. Other Fire TV devices only have access to version 5.1.1 of the Netflix app at this time.

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46 comments
  1. Paul Wig says:

    That’s cool but I prefer to use the remote. Anyone else feel the same way? Just seems easier to me.

    • Charles says:

      I agree. Starting or stopping something, especially from across the room if you’re doing something different, is cool on occasion. But for other things, such as fast forward, rewind, turning on subtitles and such, a remote is just easier and more precise. Although having extended voice control in addition to a regular remote is an added bonus. And I imagine a fun thing to show off to friends and relatives when they come to visit. :)

    • Charlie says:

      To Cube or not to Cube, that is the question. So far, my answer is no to the Cube, because I’m not all excited about voice commands, though I do understand many other people think it’s cool. I can barely put up with yelling at my Dot, which seems to be hard of hearing. I would have to think the Cube with all the mic’s is designed to hear you over a lot of background noise.

      • Dean says:

        Me too, I’m a nope so far on the cube. I prefer to use the remote for finer grained selection ability, and I can think and click faster than I can speak.

        That, and yes, Alexa is hard of hearing when there is any background noise (constantly in my house). I have to yell way too much.

    • Hn333 says:

      I prefer voice.

    • Jim says:

      Same here. Remote is comfortable. It’s gonna take me awhile to transition to a hands off streaming box.

    • Dave says:

      If efficiency and accuracy are a priority, then commands from a remote will always be more effective than voice commands.

  2. BobR says:

    Great. This is what I was hoping for my kids to launch their programs. Now they just need it for YouTube — wishful thinking I know. Getting right to the search screen on Netflix is also faster for me than clicking through screens

  3. FrogForHireX says:

    I just upgraded to the Cube and downloaded Netflix. I can not seem to stop the annoying auto previews. It is so annoying that I can barely stand to use the netflix app.

    • Steve Wayland says:

      It’s why I won’t use Roku, the auto preview is so annoying, and isn’t present on my Fire TV 2. I keep thinking an episode or movie has started, it’s very distracting and irritating.

  4. Wrecks says:

    When you have multiple Netflix profiles, you are asked which one to use before you can do anything, so you’ll still need the remote to watch a show.

  5. Dara says:

    It’s great that people with deep voices are now being included. It’s been a long time coming ;-)

    • AFTVnews says:

      LOL. I regretted the title immediately after publishing. :-P

      • JFC says:

        Elias, is there an updated recap somewhere of just what all non-Amazon streaming apps/devices currently have the “deep” kind of Alexa voice control you’re talking about here with Netflix?

        There are so many devices, and so many audio and video apps, that I basically never use my Alexa devices for those kind of fine control purposes, because I pretty much have no idea which ones do and which ones don’t. among the many that I use.

        • AFTVnews says:

          There is no up-to-date list of devices and apps that support the Alexa Video Skill that I know of. I think that’s partially because the list is growing fairly quickly, especially now that the Cube is out.

          I’ll see what I can do about getting a list together of at least Fire TV apps that support deeper Alexa functionality. The problem, though, is that each app can choose what aspects to support. For example, an app can choose to support playback control by voice, but not support search by voice. So a list of apps that have adopted the Alexa Video Skill doesn’t tell you what you can do with Alexa in those apps.

          • JFC says:

            Understood, Thanks!

            I posed the question to you. But really, AMAZON ought to be making that kind of info available somewhere for its device and app users, as part of a marketing move to expand the voice usage of Alexa by their customers.

          • Michael Agner says:

            I have attempted to contact Amazon with this very issue, and at least at the customer service level, they don’t have any information on this at all (no big surprise there). Heck, I don’t even think they understood what I was asking. I have made a suggestion that they add such a list on the page I gave earlier but I kinda doubt it’s going to happen any time soon. It ought to be easy to find out – the folks using that API probably have to sign some sort of service agreement (even tho it’s open to the public) – simply ask legal to give them the names of the apps/organizations that are using the API and you’re golden. I suppose that’s too easy…

          • Michael Agner says:

            There is now – sort of. If you have a FireTV3, or presumably the Cube as I think it uses the same OS, the Apps section has been changed. There is now just one sub category called ‘Featured’, and one of those sub sections is called ‘Alexa Enabled’. Evidently this is not yet available on OS5 devices, as my Fire Stick ver 1 doesn’t have this. Elias, I sent you an email on this. I also sent along a list of the apps that are in this section so they can be posted elsewhere.

        • JFC says:

          Michael, any reason to not just post the compatible apps list you’ve got here for starters?

          • Michael Agner says:

            I was going to hold off to see if the Cube got this, and others had seen what I had, but here’s the list of apps listed in that area – apart from Prime Video (which is curiously not listed there) we have Hulu (not sure if this is both the movies and live TV areas), Showtime, CBS All Access, ESPN, Sony Crackle, NBC, ABC, FreeForm, Starz, CNBC, PS Vue and NBC News. Elias, I assume you have a cube – can you confirm that it shows up there, too? look under APPS then FEATURED and walk down to ALEXA ENABLED. This would confirm that OS6 devices got this, but at least as far as I can see, OS5 hasn’t got it yet.

      • JFC says:

        Thanks Michael! Looking forward to testing out that list in action.

        • Michael Agner says:

          I can confirm that FreeForm works – I tried it both with the Alexa Voice remote on my FireTV3 and my Echo Dot. You will know you got it when Alexa announces that this app is now capable of being controlled, then it will launch whatever you were asking. The announcement only happens once.

          • Michael Agner says:

            Elias tells me that Bravo should also be added to that list; there may well be more that should be there but aren’t, unless someone steps up to identify them, we won’t be able to know. It kinda doesn’t surprise me that customer service doesn’t know anything about this, but perhaps if enough people make some noise, they’ll get their act together. As it is, the list is likely incomplete, but it’s a start.

  6. itzme says:

    I have Alexa working pretty well with my Harmony Hub, but not for any deep commands. While I own a FireTV pendent, for various reasons my main streaming device is my Apple TV. What I’d really love are these new Alexa deep commands, but on my Apple TV’s Netflix. Is there any way to do that?

    • Ruben Garcia says:

      I do not think that is possible, Alexa commands work well with the fire tv devices not with a third party device, just like the chromecast works well with Google home devices for playback commands.

  7. Mark B says:

    Neat, I won’t use that much but the more support the better. There will always be a remote but especially for the Disabled full voice support in every app and every aspect of the Fire TV can’t come soon enough.

    Btw for Shield Owners

    “Hey Google, Search for XXXXX on Netflix”

    Sorry not supported.

    “Hey Google, Search for XXXXXX on Prime Video”

    Sorry not supported.

  8. Michael Agner says:

    The article mentions ‘deep Alexa Voice controls’ but never really defines what that means (BOO Elias!). This should help

    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202174250

    AFAIK, so far we have Prime Video, Sony Crackle (just recently), PS Vue and now the newest version of the Netflix app that are the apps that can use these controls. I’m not completely sure about PS Vue, but I think that it is correct.

  9. thefrog says:

    Considering a Return:

    I have 2 AFTV1’s, a FireTV Stick, a AFTV2, and received a Fire TV Cube on the 21st.

    I am considering returning the FireTV Cube — I have already switched back to the AFTV2 as of yesterday.

    In my four days with the Cube, there were two major factors driving my decision: Kodi does not run anywhere near as well as on the AFTV2; Netflix has the most annoying interface ever with loud previews on every viewable tile.

    I really can’t blame Amazon for Netflix.. but I do — when/if this interface comes to the AFTV2, I will cancel my subscription. I will also reference this annoyance as a reason for the return.

    With regards to Kodi, the major reason I got the Cube was the 10-bit colour. The 4k 10-bit colour files looked washed out on the AFTV2 — this was not unexpected. However, since the AFTV2 could actually play these movies passably over ethernet, I figured the Cube was a good way to progress.

    I was surprised when the 64bit APK wouldn’t install… so I installed the 32bit APK of Kodi. Its function was noticeably slower. Maybe it was rendering the 4k interface instead of the 1080p interface as the AFTV2; maybe it was the 32bit; maybe it was a slow networking stack (All Ethernet — never WiFi). It was slower.

    It was also slower playing all the content I had previously been playing happily on the AFTV2. My higher bitrate content was unable to be played smoothly. So the 4K/HDR movies would not play.

    The Cube did have some new tricks that were a mixed bag of success or failure:

    * CEC worked with my TV for on/off/mute — but unable to control volume.
    * Voice control wouldn’t seem to launch an app — perhaps I wasn’t doing it correctly.
    * 4K content from Amazon Prime was successfully UHD
    * I was able to turn off auto-play and auto-audio for Amazon (but not Netflix)

    I already own an Echo, so the alexa integration was not that big of a deal for me, I am really looking for an HDR-capable successor to my AFTV2 and I’m afraid I have made a mistake with the Cube.

    How long should I wait to return it?

  10. Neil says:

    Sounds awesome but I don’t get this on my Fire TV 3 with Netflix 5.3.0. Saying “Alexa, play Mindhunter” still opens the search result page asking if I want to watch Mindhunter on Netflix. Maybe it is available in a more recent version for Fire Tv 3, then I can get my Sonos Beam with Alexa ordered!

    • Michael Agner says:

      Just curious, Neal – did you perform the pairing procedure between your Echo device and FireTV (assuming here that you might have more than 1 Echo device)? The voice commands won’t work without it. Alexa is supposed to perform the link automatically if there’s only 1 Echo device, but it didn’t in my case. Not a big deal as the procedure (easy) is listed here under ‘Link Your Devices’…

      https://smile.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202174250

      Mike

      • Neil says:

        I am trying this with the Fire TV 3 remote. Maybe the deeper support is not available in Europe yet.

        • AFTVnews says:

          Yeah, that’s probably it. Seems like a US only thing for now.

          • Neil says:

            I got my Sonos Beam yesterday. It sounds a little better than my old soundbar with surprising amount of bass for a system with no sub. Having Alexa support is nice (after Amazon recovered from the launch day server outages). Using Alexa for Fire TV commands is neat but a little clunky as before until us UK folks get proper/deeper Netflix integration. Only real annoyance is that there is no Alexa command to switch back to the previous (terrestrial) TV input after using Alexa to switch to music.

          • AFTVnews says:

            Thanks for the update Neil.

          • Neil says:

            I found out that to switch back to TV you can ask “Alexa, switch [Room Name] to TV”, nice.

    • stevenasf says:

      Same here. Worse, it won’t manually change the input. I guess it thinks it’ll change by waking the ATV pendant and HDMI CEC would kick in, but that doesn’t work for me anymore on my AVR. I have to tell Alex first, “Watch (po Turn on) Fire TV” which then Harmony manuall swithches to FTV, and then I only see the search result page. I have paired the living room echo with the FTV as Michael suggested.

  11. DohDohDonutzMMM says:

    I remember when I was a kid, I WAS THE REMOTE. :)

  12. badbob001 says:

    So when in the netflix app and you ask the Cube to search for a movie, will you stay within the netflix app to see netflix-only movies or will the cube bring you out from the app to show you the all-services result?

  13. Patrick says:

    It seems Netflix starts playing from the last profile. Are there commands to switch profiles?

  14. Hn333 says:

    The Netflix app on my firetv stick second gen has updated to 5.3.2, but no deep voice support yet.

  15. Michael Agner says:

    UPDATE: I earlier wrote that the new ‘ALEXA ENABLED’ category under APPS wasn’t showing up on my Fire TV stick version 1. It is now, with the same list of apps given earlier.

    • Michael Agner says:

      Further update: The other categories that APPS had (Games and Categories) are still there. The preview ad is so bright that it washes the APPS line out and makes it hard to see clearly

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