CES 2009: Netflix Everywhere

Blockbuster had better watch out; Netflix is making some bold moves. The company is repositioning itself in preparation for the day when Internet delivery replaces the distribution of rental movies on little plastic discs, either from a storefront or by the mail. I’ve written lately about some of the new devices that let you access the Netflix on-demand movies over the Internet, and it’s a great bargain at all-you-can-eat so long as you have any Netflix subscription.

Well, you could hardly turn around at CES this year without seeing the Netflix logo on another screen. Connecting TVs to the Internet to get content was a recurring theme, but Netflix was front and center for many of those announcements. LG and Samsung both announced Blu-ray players that are Netflix-enabled. LG, Samsung, and Vizio both announced flat panel TVs that can access the Netflix service directly, without requiring a separate box. Yahoo!’s widgets for TVs will soon include a Netflix service.

Netflix seems to get the idea about renting movies online in a way that others — such as CinemaNow or Amazon — have not yet grasped. Don’t charge by the movie; charge a flat rate subscription for a service that lets you watch as much or as little as you like. This eliminates the problem of having to watch a movie you’ve rented within a certain length of time. And it eliminates any hesitation on the part of the user to choose another movie from the service, since they’ve already paid for it.

This is the new way that content will be delivered to televisions, and Netflix has jumped ahead of everyone with its approach. It may be hard for the others to catch up.