Netflix updated its apps for Apple iOS devices to let users subscribe to the service directly using in-app purchases on iPhones or iPads, announcing the feature with an assist from two stars of its popular original series “Orange Is the New Black.”
The No. 1 streaming service first launched iOS apps in 2010, but until now required customers to already have signed up on the web (or have opened a new Netflix account through an Apple TV set-top). Other streaming services including Hulu and HBO Now already provide in-app purchasing on Apple devices, which lets users pay for them using an iTunes account.
To be sure, the change isn’t likely to result in a major lift in Netflix subscriber signups. If anything, it’s an acknowledgement of the rapid rise of mobile-video viewing, and the fact that smartphones and tablets are the primary screen for entertainment among a growing mass of people.
Netflix may have resisted offering in-app purchases because of Apple’s policy of charging app publishers 30% on top of the price of the digital content or service. The Federal Trade Commission this summer launched a probe into the so-called “App Store tax” or “Apple tax” as it pertains to the Apple Music service, investigating whether the policy is unfair to third-party music subscription services like Spotify or Rdio.
Netflix announced the ability to subscribe from the iOS apps Thursday on Twitter and YouTube. The video features “Orange Is the New Black” characters Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” (Emmy-winner Uzo Aduba) and Taystee (Danielle Brooks), who discover an iPhone on a bunk in Litchfield — and are utterly baffled by Siri.