Assistant-powered smart displays aren't exactly "new" anymore. Back in early 2018, when we got our first glance at CES, they were fresh and exciting. And yet, almost two years since they were first revealed and a year and a half since they went on sale, they still have one glaring omission — and, surprisingly, it isn't Google's fault. Although you can stream Hulu, YouTube TV, Twitch, and Disney+ to your Nest Hub or Lenovo Smart Display, it's nearly 2020 and you still can't stream Netflix.
This is kind of a big problem. Although opinions regarding their kitchen utility are divided here at Android Police, I think it's a spot they were basically made for. They're a small screen for a small space that can respond to hands-free voice controls and play media, almost purpose-built for use with messy hands to coordinate timers, get instructions, do unit conversions, etc. With their ability to stream casted content, they're even the perfect kitchen TV replacement for cord-cutters. Or, at least, they would be if they were able to stream from all the most popular services, and right now, they can't.
It's not Google's issue, either. Chromecasts play nice with Google's Widevine DRM, so rights holders can be sure streamed content is protected, and other services like Hulu, YouTube TV, and even the brand-new Disney+ have no problem playing nice with smart displays. In our tests, there are only two major services that refuse to see smart displays as castable devices: Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
Considering Prime only just got support for Chromecasts period earlier this year as part of the new peace between Google and Amazon, it's more forgivable, if still annoying. Objectively, Prime Video's omission also matters less. Per-market subscriber counts can be hard to compare between leaks and published data, especially since plenty of Prime subscribers probably just use it for other perks like faster free shipping, but estimates peg Amazon's US watcher count at 26 million as of 2018, while Netflix dominated the market at 60.2 million subscribers. The number one choice will clearly be missed more than a distant number 3, even if I'd like to see them both play nice now that Season 4 of The Expanse is here.
Netflix was literally a Chromecast launch partner that has supported casting content via Google's protocol for the past six years. It's been around since day one, and now almost two years since Google's new smart displays were first revealed, we still can't use them to watch Netflix.
It's also more than a bit hypocritical for Netflix to be dictating which screens I can watch content on, especially if there's no technical limitation, all while it's in the middle of fighting the entrenched film industry about which screens it has to use to be considered for awards. The company is embroiled in an underdog fight against the requirement of theatrical runs for awards eligibility, but it's imposing its own similarly arbitrary limitations in my home. That's one way to make your Oscar arguments sound hollow, Netflix.
While assembling this rant, I reached out to Netflix for more information about why it chooses not to allow smart displays to stream its content, and a spokesperson told us, "we have no current plans to share for Netflix coming to Smart Displays." Hopefully, the company changes its stance, because right now it's a glaring omission. Although I haven't personally subscribed to Disney+ yet, it's looking a lot more tempting than Netflix right now, knowing that I can use it on more of my devices including smart displays. I certainly don't need to subscribe to both.