The Ways I Troubleshoot Netflix Service Problems

Our number-one troubleshooting issue used to be “my cable TV isn’t working,” and then “my internet isn’t working.” Now it is quickly transitioning to “my Netflix isn’t working.”
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(This has nothing to do with today’s blog, but I saw a sneak preview of Pixar’s new film Inside Out with my family last night and I wanted to say what a *terrific* film it is. The film resonates on so many levels, but it is especially poignant if you have kids of your own. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and it is going to sound absolutely awesome in a home theater with Dolby Atmos! It opens in theaters this Friday.)

If your clients are anything like mine—and I’m pretty sure that by this point we’ve clearly established that people are alike all over, and we’re all in this install game together, sharing the same trials, tribulations and triumphs—then they have turned to Netflix to satisfy the majority of their entertainment needs. And where our number-one troubleshooting issue used to be “my cable TV isn’t working,” and then “my internet isn’t working,” it is quickly transitioning to “my Netflix isn’t working.”

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Netflix has become the de facto streaming solution and most of our clients now consider it an inalienable right up there with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and when it stops working the first thing they do is pick up the phone and call us. The problem is, troubleshooting Netflix issues can be one of the trickiest gremlins to squash as the issue can span a long and wide chasm that touches on multiple pieces of hardware and service providers. Plus, with the cost of Netflix streaming being so cheap, the cost of getting a tech in the door can often exceed their yearly subscription price, potentially hanging us out to look like the bad guy in a scenario that often has nothing to do with the quality of gear or installation. Let’s walk down the rabbit hole of potential Netflix problems and solutions.

Internet Out
Obviously this is the first place to start, because with no internet, there is no Netflix. Sure, there’s also no email, no YouTube, no Twitter, and no Facebook, but most pressingly THERE IS NO NETFLIX! Of course, when asking a client to check this, they will often be using a mobile device and will tell you that they can definitely still get on the internet with it, but you need to make certain that they are not connecting via cellular and are using the home’s network. If the internet is indeed out, then the question becomes, “Why is my internet out?!” with an immediate cascading of fear-fueled emotions like you just told them the city had cut off the water and electrical supply.

Now we can begin our litany of internet outage troubleshooting: reboot the modem, reboot the router, reboot the network devices, etc. If these steps don’t resolve the issue and you still can’t access the internet when connecting a computer via Ethernet cable directly to the modem, then you’ve either got a broken modem or an ISP outage, and it’s time to call the ISP and set up a service call with them. If, however, you can get on the internet and Netflix still isn’t working, it’s time to dig a little deeper…

Hardware Issue
If the internet and network are all up and running, it’s time to start checking the device used to stream Netflix, usually a Blu-ray, Apple TV, or smart TV. Now, I must admit, I can’t think of a time when our company has had a Netflix issue where Apple TV was involved. Chalk that up to either Apple doing a terrific job with its hardware or Netflix app, or my company just having far fewer people using Apple TV to watch Netflix.

When the streaming device is a Blu-ray player, which is essentially a purpose-built computer in many ways, we start by rebooting it as a matter of course. Heck, why not just go ahead and reboot that smart TV too? As you know, a good ol’ power cycle is usually good for what ails ya, and can cure a variety of ills. If this doesn’t solve the issue, then you need to make sure the device is connected to the network and internet. If they are connected via Wi-Fi, what’s the signal strength look like?

After a reboot and the internet connection checks out OK, see if there are any new updates for the device. Netflix has been known to change things on their end that “breaks” usage in some devices, requiring a downloaded fix to resolve the issue. If the device is up to date, check to see if other streaming apps are working. If so, then it’s probably time to turn to Google to see if there is something specific about your device not working with Netflix.

Sometimes it can be as simple as just switching their streaming to another device. For example, if they had been using the TV for Netflix, could they use their Blu-ray player instead? In modern systems there are often several options for skinning the Netflix cat, and customers usually don’t care which device is providing the content. Sure, this might require a bit of programming rework on your end, but if it gets you out the door with a happy customer, I say, “Mission accomplished!”

If there are no other devices available and if it is something “small” like a Blu-ray player, the customer might just opt to replace it on the spot, especially if that will get them back to bingeing House of Cards or whatever it was they had planned for the day. But if it is something not so easily swapped out—like say their TV—you might not get off so easy. Various models of Samsung TVs have had issues with Netflix and the current model run of Sony 4K sets started shipping without Netflix working. (Sony has since resolved this with a software update.) We had one customer that purchased a Samsung TV from Best Buy and we just could not get Netflix to work. After two separate service calls and trying all the work around suggestions – including factory defaulting it and the one where you use UK apps – we just couldn’t get it to work. Ultimately the customer took the TV back and bought a different model from us.

Netflix Issues
Netflix is not infallible and the company does go down occasionally. Ironically, I went to Netflix’s help site this morning and saw this:

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Social media is a great place to look to see if others are also experiencing issues and you can check Netflix’s Twitter account at @Netflixhelps to see if they are reporting any problems. You can reach out to them on that social media platform for a response or call the company and get an actual person on the phone.

Fortunately, these issues are almost always resolvable, but they typically require a site visit and can take some time to track down. If your company has found a great way to troubleshoot Netflix issues, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.

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