“The Wizard of Oz” is 70 years old this year, and Warner Brothers is celebrating by performing a digital restoration of the original film. And you can watch it for free, thanks to Netflix. For 24 hours, starting at 9 AM Eastern on October 3. All you have to do is go to www.netflix.com/wizardofoz to view the streamed movie on demand.
If you have a current unlimited Netflix subscription, you can watch the movie in high definition, also for free. Netflix will be relying on Microsoft’s Silverlight platform to stream the movie, which will let viewers pause, fast-forward, and rewind.
According to the company press release, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, said “Making a movie of this stature available for free over the Internet on an uninterrupted basis is a first. At the same time, it’s a great opportunity for people to get a taste of what instantly watching movies streamed from Netflix is all about. We’re thrilled to be able to do this on both scores.”
And that explains it all. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, Netflix is tired of licking stamps, and is positioning itself to get out of the physical DVD disc business. (Perhaps they are ready to abandon it to Redbox.) They’ve been offering streaming movies to subscribers for quite a while, and it’s a staple feature for network-connected HDTVs. Even Microsoft Media Center supports Netflix streaming movies.
So this promotion signals that Netflix is about to get serious about movie delivery over the Internet, and it makes two statements for the price of one. For the general public, it offers a great movie for the whole family and gives them the opportunity to discover watching feature-length movies on the Internet. And for its subscribers, Netflix gives them a bonus and demonstrates that it can deliver streaming HD content. This is a double-dose of Netflix being ready to stand up and be noticed, and I expect that this will get some attention.