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Netflix may add short-form content to increase mobile usage

Janko Roettgers

Netflix has always been all about TV shows and movies, but soon, it could feature a lot of shorter clips as well: The company is considering adding two- to five-minute-long clips to its catalog to give its growing number of mobile users some bite-sized content to watch, design manager Dantley Davis revealed during an event at Netflix’s Los Gatos headquarters Thursday.

However, Netflix isn’t looking to take on YouTube with webisodes and user-generated content. Instead, it may serve up key scenes from TV shows, short snippets of movies and little bits from comedy stand-up specials, all taken out of the catalog of shows and movies Netflix already has.

Netflix is testing this type of content on mobile now, said Davis. One of the tests the company is currently running adds an extra row of content titled “Have five minutes?” to the home screen of Netflix’s existing mobile app. The company may add short-form content as a permanent feature when it relaunches its mobile apps in the coming months, depending on the outcome of these tests. Davis said that these tests have so far shown “very positive results.”

Davis said Thursday that most Netflix content is still watched on TV screens, but that mobile is seeing the biggest growth, in part because of the way phones have been changing. “As screen sizes are becoming bigger, watching content on phones becomes more natural,” he said.

That development prompted Netflix to take mobile more seriously, and while researching the space, Netflix’s designers came upon an unexpected challenge: 87 percent of all mobile sessions last less than ten minutes — but Netflix didn’t have any content that was less than ten minutes long. That’s why the company decided to experiment with shorter-form content.

It’s worth noting that Netflix tests all kinds of things all the time, and some of these tests never actually turn into real products. However, branching out into shorter-form content makes a whole lot of sense for Netflix, particularly as the company is looking to get more traction on mobile. Davis added Thursday that improving the mobile experience could also be key to Netflix’s international expansion plans.

Short clips could also be a great enhancement to a feature Netflix launched earlier this week: The company now lets users privately share and recommend videos to their friends on the service, which makes a lot more sense with a five-minute clip than with a 90-minute movie.

Image copyright Twin Design / Shutterstock.com.

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