Netflix Streams Movies, for Free!

Netflix is a phenomenon; there’s no other way to put it. More than 5 million people subscribe to the service that has done such a good job using your mailbox as a replacement for the video rental store, that Blockbuster has now been compelled to match the service. Netflix offers more than 70,000 titles on DVD with no late fees for a flat monthly fee, and they even pay the postage both ways.

Now Netflix is disrupting the whole movie rental market again, by giving away movies for free. Subscribers can now stream any of 1,000 movies over the Internet, and watch them on a desktop computer, laptop, or even their television if it is connected to the Internet. And at no extra cost beyond your regular monthly subscription. You get six hours of viewing time per month for each DVD that you can rent from Netflix. If you have the one disc plan, you get six hours. If you are on the three disc plan, you can watch 18 hours a month online. That’s like getting a dozen extra movies for free.

And these are not downloads; they are streaming video so you don’t need to have an enormous hard drive on which to store them. You can watch the same movie over and over, or just sample different ones to find one you like; there is no limit on the number of titles, just the viewing time. The service includes fast forward and rewind features, so you can watch part of a movie today, and finish it up at another time: later today, tomorrow, next week, or next month. The video quality is adjusted to match the bandwidth of your Internet connection; you’ll need high-speed broadband in order to get the best quality.

I’ve been saying for a long time that the Internet is going to change everything, and this is just what I’m talking about. Netflix now gives its subscribers free access to their own private movie channel over IPTV, letting them watch what they want, when they want, where they want, and at no additional cost beyond their existing subscription. And I suspect that we will discover more delightful surprises as video entertainment and the Internet continue to be combined by creative business like Netflix.