Monday’s press release from Netflix says it all: “Beginning today, all Netflix subscribers on unlimited rental plans, which start as low as $8.99 a month, will be able to stream as many movies and TV episodes as they want on their PCs, choosing from a library of over 6,000 familiar movies and TV episodes.”
Bang! No more walks to the mailbox for customers, and no more inventory or postage or pesky human handling of products for Netflix. Instant revolution in the movie rental business! Now, 6,000 titles may sound like a big number, but remember that this includes TV show episodes. The actual number of movie titles is a relatively small fraction of the 90,000 movie titles in the company’s DVD library. But this is still an important start.
How important? Couple it with a pre-CES announcement made jointly by Netflix and LG Electronics to see the full ramifications. The two companies announced that LG will integrate support for the Netflix online service directly into models of their HDTVs and possibly their high-def DVD players, with products expected to come to market in the second half of this year. This means that you don’t need to have a computer in the living room in order to access the Netflix service, which is likely to be appealing to many American consumers. You’ll be able to watch any of the movies or TV episodes any time you want, for $9 a month, right on your HDTV without the need for a set top box or computer or other device.
The one drawback of the service is that it does not include HD movies at this point. Given Apple’s entry into the online movie rental business, and the likelihood that Blockbuster will be forced to come up with some sort of response, there’s plenty of competitive pressure on Netflix to keep upping the ante. I expect that we’ll see a rapid expansion of the available titles for online streaming, as well as HD titles.
Once again, the Internet changes everything.