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.