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Netflix Is Bringing Vertical Video Previews to Its Mobile Apps

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Netflix on Wednesday revealed a new feature that it will be rolling out to mobile app users in the next couple of weeks, starting with the iPhone app and then moving on to Android. Speaking at the Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California on Wednesday, Todd Yellin, Vice President Product at Netflix revealed “previews”, a kind of video trailer that will give mobile users a preview of shows on the streaming service.

The videos are pre-buffered using predictive analysis, so they should load almost instantly even on a mobile data connection, says Yellin. Interestingly, the videos have been edited to play in portrait mode, since that’s how people are holding the device while browsing Netflix, he adds.

When the new feature rolls out, users will see a horizontal bar of previews, which are marked with circular buttons to help them stand out on the home page. You can swipe through the list horizontally, or tap on any of them, which will start playing the short trailer.

“The previews vary for each show, but are typically around 30 seconds,” says Yellin, adding, “we tested a few different lengths and this seemed to be what users would be most comfortable with.”

The previews are related to video previews that Netflix rolled out to the television interface in 2016. There, if you pause on a title while browsing through videos, the still image on the top of the screen is replaced by a video preview after a few seconds. In the case of mobile previews, the users have to more actively engage the preview by pressing a button.

However, previews for television are designed for a landscape layout – the portrait previews need to be edited from scratch, to crop into the video in a way that the picture still makes sense and looks good, Yellin adds.

Once the video is playing, you’ll see a small status bar on the top of the screen, showing the progress of the video and the next two videos in the list, much like a WhatsApp status page. You can swipe through to move between videos, and while a video is playing, you can tap a button at the bottom of the screen to start playing, at which point it shifts into landscape mode for normal viewing.

“It’s similar to the interface in some social apps,” Yellin adds, explaining why the format was chosen. The previews will cover all the content on Netflix over time, both original and licensed, and shown to users in a personalised manner, he adds.

However, Netflix is not presently planning to take vertical videos forward as a standalone content format, because it wants to have its content available on all platforms, and vertical video will not work well on television, Yellin explains.