Who’s to blame for the Fire TV’s lack of Netflix voice search integration?

The latest round of Fire TV and Fire TV Stick software updates have addressed more customer complaints than ever before. Yet, Netflix voice search integration, which has long been one of the most requested features, is still missing from Amazon’s line of streaming media devices. Since the Fire TV’s release one year ago, we’ve seen voice search, its most advertised feature, expand to include additional sources like Showtime and Crackle. Why then is Netflix, the world’s leading internet media streaming service, still missing from the list of supported services? Is Amazon deliberately keeping its biggest streaming media competitor out of the spotlight, or is Netflix making the Fire TV less attractive to its customers on purpose? Here are the facts for you to decide.

In order for a third-party streaming media service like Netflix to integrate into the Fire TV’s voice search, the service must do two things. First, they must create a catalog file which lists all the movies and shows they offer and upload the file to Amazon’s servers. And second, they must modify their Fire TV app to accept special commands that allow the Fire TV to directly start playing a video within the app. Amazon uses the catalog file to determine which movies and shows to include in the Fire TV’s search results and uses the special commands to seamlessly start playing the video when it’s selected from a search result. Amazon provides detailed documentation on precisely how to create the catalog file and how to integrate media apps with the Fire TV interface.

On a side note, it’s this server-side catalog requirement which prevents apps like Plex and Kodi from ever integrating with the Fire TV’s voice search. Since the media available within those apps is unique to each user, they can’t be included in the Fire TV’s search results without an overhaul of how search is handled on the Fire TV.

“We expect to support [Fire TV] voice search later this year.”-Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO

April 2014

The Fire TV’s voice search integration requirements and process have been in place since the Fire TV launched. That’s probably what prompted Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, to tell shareholders “we expect to support voice search later this year” when speaking about the Fire TV a few weeks after it was released. It’s nearly a quarter into the following year and we still don’t have Netflix search integration. It seems like the ball is in Netflix’s court but they’ve shown a lack of interest with the Fire TV in the past. When Netflix simultaneously overhauled their Android, iOS, Roku, and Apple TV apps, it took four months for the same update to come to the Fire TV.

While it may seem like Netflix’s move, Fire TV search integration isn’t entirely an automated process. Amazon states that “to complete your catalog integration with our platform, please contact us for further information.” There could be hidden hurdles complicating the seemingly smooth search integration process. Additionally, Amazon could be criticized for not taking the initiative to bring Netflix search integration to the Fire TV themselves. Roku just launched a new voice search feature which does include Netflix results as well as several other services not integrated into the Fire TV’s search. I can only assume Roku achieved this feat by taking it upon themselves to catalog Netflix’s content, instead of Amazon’s approach of leaving it up to Netflix.

It’s easy to come up with conspiracy theories about how each company is deliberately holding the other back, but the truth is we just don’t know the real reason. If you ask me, I think it’s a simple case of each company not feeling like they need the other one enough to put in the effort for Netflix search integration on the Amazon Fire TV.

  1. Michael says:

    Netflix also used to provide a list of shows they offered both on DVD and streaming. Now that list is missing from their website as well. Maybe Netflix is getting more customers than they need and do not want to have the duplicate shows on Amazon beside their offerings. Back in the DVD with free streaming days that led to a 60% increase in price, the stock dropped to about 35.00/share. And if Reed Hastings does not want to incorporate the technology that Amazon offers (for free), he may find himself in that same position again.

    Last time the stock price was a bit over 100 and down 75%. Now it’s over 400 and I’m sure it’s not going to stay there. Without integrating the newest technology, Netflix is going to be an Alta Vista in a Google world. Thanks to Reed Hastings.

  2. CG says:

    I think you mean hurdle not hurtle.

    • JIPsy says:

      Really, bro?! The amount of work this guy puts into this website we can forgive one error. I think a personal email would have been more appropriate.

      • AFTVnews says:

        Thanks for defending me, but I love when people point out my mistakes no matter how small or big. It’s the best way to learn and improve.

        BTW, “hurtle” has been fixed. Thanks CG.

      • Kevy Kwv says:

        Agreed on the hurdle/hurtle comment.
        Dude who runs this site rocks.
        Check it daily :0)
        Thanks for the good info.

      • CG says:

        Before you get postal on me, it wasn’t mean to be a slam on him. Why you getting your panties in a bunch? I appreciate this site like the rest of the visitors. Besides, it’s a common mistake people make so it isn’t like I’m the grammar police.

    • unknownsoldier says:

      Thank you for your learned opinion ;(

  3. shwru980r says:

    Amazon has a vested interest in making sure their video content is more accessible than any other content that is available on Amazon devices.

  4. porkie says:

    Voice search can already work on the Fire TV. Just get a bluetooth mic and the right voice assistant and you can seach apps. I have even made wifi calls from the Fire TV.

  5. scott says:

    I check this site daily too! good info.

  6. Justin says:

    I’ve been wondering this too. It’s the one area that fire tv lags behind roku especially since they just added voice search. Fire TV added hulu+, crackle, showtime, and hbo to it’s search results so it doesn’t seem like they completely want to avoid competition and promoting other services. Prime has become a multitude of services anyway so I would always subscribe to both amazon prime and netflix because prime video is only a small part of why I have prime.

    I hope they work things out with netflix since they’ve been adding great features to the fire tv and with netflix voice search there would be very few arguments against fire tv being the best video streamer.

    Great work on the site. Would be cool if there was a forum especially to discuss new or upcoming games. Ouya always had a great community at ouyaforum.com and would be cool if fire tv had something similar.

  7. CG says:

    I think the Apple TV is due for a much needed refresh and rumors are they’ll have Siri integrated in the newer hardware which may have the A8X chip. That would make them on par or better than FireTV with gaming and features. Of course you’d still have to pay for everything with the Apple ecosystem.

  8. Mark says:

    All I can say is Amazon better get to it and get Netflix on the voice search or market share will surely suffer substantially. You can well believe, Amazon needs Netflix far more than the other way around.

  9. Paul says:

    I received my AFTV a couple of days ago and mostly am very happy with it, one thing I’m curious about is how I view resolution/bitrate info when I’m watching something on Netflix? On Ps4 it’s a simple right stick click, on PC it’s a simple key press, but can’t figure out how to do it on AFTV?

    Thanks in advance!

  10. Sasha says:

    I suspect there’s probably some negotiation going on behind the scenes.

    With Roku there was no competition for Netflix (after all, the Roku was originally developed by Netflix IIRC) and they don’t produce their own content.

    With FireTV Amazon owns the hardware but also has a competitive video service… giving access to both the catalog and what customers are searching for makes things a little one-sided for Amazon so you have to assume Netflix are asking for things in return and while the two goliaths battle it out we get stuck in the middle.

    Meta-data ingestion is a challenge for all of the media devices… from the early days of Windows Media Center with their EPG through to the current FireTV/Roku/Xbox landscape. You have to assume that Netflix aren’t stumped by a XML Style Sheet Transform problem so the block is commercial…

  11. tony says:

    Who cares about voice control when the netflix app keeps stalling saying the title is not available, try another one (when no films can be streamed).
    Pages of comments on Amazon’s forums, yet Netflix customer services claim they have not heard of this problem!
    The Netflix app is 9 months old and still is buggy!

    • Lo says:

      LMAO that’s so true, the Netflix app is pretty damn buggy. Before I saw you comment I use to think it was my internet connection but now I see it’s an issue. I always get this video can not be stream but it’s streams fine on my phone and iPad, just not the fire TV.

  12. Gil says:

    Was there any update on that recently?

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