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Netflix To Offer Streaming-Only Service Plans

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the is-your-connection-that-good dept.

Media 151

MojoKid writes "Debates are raging as to what the future of movie distribution will look like. There are those who claim that physical discs, like DVDs, Blu-ray, and whatever format will eventually supplant Blu-ray, will always deliver a superior viewing experience versus anything that will be available via streaming. Pundits on the other side of the debate say that as broadband's footprint continues to expand, quality is improving. Interestingly, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is siding firmly with the latter camp, and it would even appear that Netflix is gearing up to move all of its eggs from the mail-distribution basket to the online streaming basket. Hastings indicated that perhaps as soon as later this year or sometime in 2010, Netflix might start offering online-streaming-only subscription plans beyond just its current Starz plan."

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151 comments

Attn Moderators: You Suck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26942731)

Lick my balls you brainless fucking retards.

Only a coward shit stain mods people down when an article gets old

I just went from +5 to +2 because of shit stain moderators.

fuck you

Re:Attn Moderators: You Suck (0, Troll)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943157)

OMFG!!1! Now I just went from 0 to MINUS 1!

What is up with these people? Don't you know insighful when you see it.

I don't know why I bother grumble fumble

Re:Attn Moderators: You Suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26943275)

Mr. Jenkins, You deserve the Oscar tomorrow.

Re:Attn Moderators: You Suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26944703)

2/10

ok (4, Insightful)

Starteck81 (917280) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942735)

I think that's a great idea but they need to get a much larger part of their DVD library avilable on the streaming side before that will become popular.

Re:ok (2, Informative)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943627)

I don't remember where I saw it - probably somewhere when I was researching the Roku player - but there was something about the reason NetFlix didn't have the newest releases was due to noncompete in their contracts. The DVD/studio people want time to market the DVDs to consumers.

With pay per view and DVD rentals, there is apparently a payment made that keeps them happy. I don't know if that is currently true with the stuff NetFlix streams. What they offer on streaming might be pretty similar to what is made available through broadcast TV.

I could see this as an opportunity for NetFlix to offer a tiered subscription, though. Free streaming of older, less mainstream stuff, and then pay a higher subscription price for the same stuff they mail out on DVDs. Maybe they are waiting on a sufficiently large installed base of NetFlix streaming compatible players.

Not to malign what they offer through streaming - I am a long way from running out of movies and such that I want to see that are already available.

Re:ok (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944963)

>>>I think that's a great idea

I don't. My internet connection only offers 0.8 megabit/s quality, while Bluray averages ~40 megabit/s, Clearly the physical option offers the best picture quality, and also the cheapest option ($180/year for internet versus $0 to have amazon.com deliver the discs to me). Plus the convenience of owning the TV show or movie for multiple viewings.

The need to work on soundtrack and subtitles (1)

sodul (833177) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945311)

I watch a good amount of anime and foreign movies which are awful for me to watch online because they are dubbed or if they are not I don't always want the hardcoded subtitles (try to watch a movie with a different version of the dialog popping up before the actor speak).

I would not say I'm the typical user (US person [wikipedia.org] but not citizen) but the better soundtracks and better choice of soundtrack is one of the main reasons I still keep my 3 disk subscription.

The library need to be improved of course, but they are doing a good job at adding stuff already and long term that mean less need for a huge inventory of physical disks. For example you can buy music on iTunes that you could not mail order if you wanted to.

Quality will improve with a faster Internet, it might get a boost thank to the new administration and it's something that is supposed to happen 'naturally' anyway. Just look at the speed available in Tokyo, we are way behind.

No, they really don't... (2)

judolphin (1158895) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945619)

Don't get me wrong, it would be nice if Netflix streamed all movies ever known to mankind... but I humbly disagree. To me, the main competitors to Netflix streaming are pay-per-view, HBO, Showtime, etc. A limited selection of movies that can be played on demand for ~$8/month beats the hell out of (and is cheaper than) premium cable channels and pay-per-view.

How exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26942743)

can Blu-ray supplant itself?

Re:How exactly (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944947)

Re-read the summary about 3 times, like the rest of us, and it will start to make grammatical sense.

"all their eggs" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26942745)

Offering a streaming-only option IN ADDITION TO their regular mail+streaming option isn't putting all their eggs in one basket. In fact, it's the opposite. They're offering their customers more diverse options.

Re:"all their eggs" (2, Interesting)

perlchild (582235) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944335)

Exactly...

In fact Netflix may just be showing us the future of content monetization.

Offer, for a fee, media people are willing to pay for, not based on your technology choices, leave it, as much as possible, to them.

Netflix has the distribution platform, check, the client base, check, the mindshare, check. They are waiting for the MPAA licenses etc... But as long as they give more freedom to the consumer(not necessarily for free) and keep it as much a "I gave you my money, I just want it to work" experience, they will print money with it.

Not ready for prime time (4, Informative)

thered2001 (1257950) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942761)

I've used the Netflix service and I'd have to say the quality is OK but not nearly good enough to replace DVDs. It's especially poor at the beginning of films. And while they have a lot of titles, there are still notable absences.

In my experience, Fox TV's service is far better w/r/t quality. It frequently looks as good as DVDs.

Re:Not ready for prime time (1)

cyberprophet (1411663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942925)

If you manually set the bit-rate of the Netflix stream the quality will be better and more consistent though you may have to wait for it to buffer.

Re:Not ready for prime time (2, Interesting)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943413)

How do you set the bit rate? I haven't seen it in the Roku menus. I have set my screen type which I am sure would affect bit rate. Is that what you mean or is this on a different player?

Re:Not ready for prime time (2, Informative)

SlashdotOgre (739181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943233)

Have you only viewed it on a computer (which limits you to standard def), or have you actually used one of the third party devices that connect to HDTV's and support HD streams? I have both an Xbox 360 and a Tivo Series 3, they each support Netflix's streaming service in HD, and they both look fantastic. Now not everything is in HD, but at least most new TV series (Heroes, The Office, etc.) are all supported. Even non-HD stuff looks pretty good, although again that may just be due to the Tivo or Xbox 360, since they don't support Linux, I really can't comment too much on the desktop.

I signed up in November when the Xbox 360 started supporting it, I'm on their lowest plan (1 DVD out at a time), and haven't even watched one disk. However I've finished two seasons of the office, and watched a handful of movies through streaming. If they offered a streaming only plan for like $5.99-7.99 a mo I would downgrade to it immediately.

Re:Not ready for prime time (2, Informative)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943559)

I have the Roku player and pipe it into a Sony HDTV. It looks beautiful on most Netflix offerings.

Even with the HD offerings, though, the quality isn't as good as a DVD in my upconverting DVD player but it is better than non-digital cable or broadcast.

I love my Roku player and it's probably the best $100 I've spend on entertainment. I've also been watching the various TV series (Star Trek is in HD too), lots of documentaries (History Channel, PBS, etc) and some movies. It is certainly easily watchable.

There are some artifacts in the images, though, especially when the screen is mostly one color or shade - you will see the digitization as blockiness. But that's generally not an issue and easily overlooked for the kind of viewing I use the Roku for.

I have the single DVD but unlimited tradeouts (which gets me free streaming), and anything I want to see in really high quality, I just get as a mailed DVD. I can wait a day or two.

Other than that, the only other issue I've seen is on Saturday evenings, the image quality can go down a little but I think that is due to heavy load on the NetFlix servers or through network choke points near them.

As an aside, I started out with the Roku on a 1.5 Mbps DSL connection through Qwest. During movies, the load held fairly constant at about 1.3 Mbps. With so little headroom, and since I've been pining for faster speeds anyway, I upgraded my service to 7 Mbps. Now, instead of a constant 1.3 Mbps, I see pulses of download traffic up to around 5-6 Mbps and then periods of no activity in between. The average still comes out around 1.3 Mbps.

But I have no problem recommending streaming NetFlix and I love the little Roku player.

Re:Not ready for prime time (1)

Tintivilus (88810) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944461)

I also signed up for the 1-DVD plan just for access to the streaming library via my Tivo HD. When it works, it looks pretty good... but maybe 20% of the titles I've tried to watch have *horrible* problems. I don't mean "zomg it's not HD" sort of problems, but things like audio and video being out of sync by multiple seconds, or the video looks like an analog-scrambled premium channel.

For DVDs they have a "Report a Problem" button right in your queue and respond very quickly to any issue, but streaming video seems to be a best-effort, take-it-or-leave-it sort of proposition. If the quality were a little more consistent maybe I'd consider dropping the DVDs by mail, even with the current limited streaming selection.

Re:Not ready for prime time (1)

The Great Pretender (975978) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943697)

Our house uses a combination of netflix (3 DVD's plus a lot of streaming) and hulu, which accesses most things that we would want. We pump that through the xbox 360 with playon and my LCD TV has a built in digital tuner. To be perfectly honest I have very little reason to have cable and the quality coming out of the xbox to the screen is as good as anything we used to get on cable (we don't need HD). I should say that HULU is better quality in most cases than Netflix, but both appear to be as good as the delivered Netflix DVDs. (Note: Comcast as ISP with 17+ (sometimes 23-26) download speed)

Re:Not ready for prime time (2, Informative)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944103)

Regarding not needing cable, I recently updated my Roku firmware and it mentioned that Amazon was going to also be streaming through the Roku and they were going to be streaming network TV as well.

From the Roku "What's New" menu page:

By now you've noticed our new Home screen. This screen will become your launching pad for a number of great new channels that will begin to appear on your player in early 2009. In addition to the hugely popular Netflix channel, you'll see new movie channels, TV channels, web video channels and more!

We've also upgraded your player to support an advanced video format that will deliver better video quality, especially over slower Internet connections.

Finally, your player is now fully HD capable. If you have an HDTV, select "update display type" below to get the full HD experience. (Tip: visit www.netflix.com/instantHD for HD movies from Netflix.)

Re:Not ready for prime time (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943857)

You haven't tried the Roku box with the HD update. The quality is on par with 480p. Amazing.

Re:Not ready for prime time (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945435)

The video is not on a quality level with a good upconverted DVD, and the sound is still only two channel. And it is bogs years behind some of the new BluRay players with interpolated deep color and DTS-MA audio.

Not to mention that the catalog available does not compare. Ar the studios going to give up on physical DVD sales? Seems unlikely to me.

Netflix may want to move to streaming exclusively, but I think that many of their customers will have differing ideas.

Personally I think Netflix may be jimping the shark here.

Re:Not ready for prime time (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26946067)

Well there's your problem. You care more about quality. I don't. I rarely pick Blu-ray when I have a choice (and Blu-ray player/disc sales seem to indicate I'm in the majority). I'd prefer more content cheaper than higher quality content. Ooooh, only two channel sound. So? I'll enjoy what Netflix can offer and get content they or Hulu don't have through other methods.

Re:Not ready for prime time (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944603)

the fast foreward and rewind also suck massively. It's ok for a film you dont know about, but I still out anything I really want to watch in my que for home delivery.

Re:Not ready for prime time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26944781)

If you need FF & rewind, you shouldn't be streaming *that* kind of movie.

Re:Not ready for prime time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26945383)

Everybody seems to comment on the video quality which, don't get me wrong, deserves talking about, but audio is also a huge part of it. There is no doubt in my mind that we will get more an more HD video before any providers consider multichannel audio. While I welcome this direction (as I don't have a Blu-ray player and have no intentions of getting one anytime soon), the fact that 2-channel is the only audio available for streaming is what truly makes DVD my preference for viewing.

Support more Systems (2, Interesting)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942765)

With Hulu letting us watch on our Linux boxes, will Netflix move towards this as well if this is going to be their new distrubution model?

I hope so.

Playon does not help us.

Re:Support more Systems (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942909)

Hulu and several other media sites don't work outside the US, and finding an adequately responsive proxy is a bigger pain than I thought.

Support more Countries. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943259)

"Hulu and several other media sites don't work outside the US..."

The irony I had the other day with the BBC is I got a message saying it couldn't play a particular media clip due to the country I was in. So no I wouldn't say it's a "US only" phenomenon.

I also find this complaint interesting as in I rarely hear "[non-US] content is inaccessible in my country". Guess we've raised our standards from "It's so awful I'll not even torrent it" to "I'll watch it over what other countries produce. Further propagating US culture".

Re:Support more Systems (3, Interesting)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943085)

Netflix doesn't have ads, Hulu has. I moved away from TV to Netflix exactly because of ads.

The future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26942805)

Looks a lot like http://thepiratebay.com/ [thepiratebay.com] today only with fibre optic broadband.

I think... (1)

uxbn_kuribo (1146975) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942825)

Maybe they should focus on making their software work on Firefox. I mean, hell, it works on XBox360. Now what could Xbox360 possibly have in common with Internet Explorer?

Re:I think... (1)

mail2345 (1201389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942907)

The amount of users?
Or perhaps the amount of "bonuses"/"punishments" that Microsoft gives to companies.

Re:I think... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943103)

I've been running netflix on firefox without any problems; you just have to install the silverlight plugin

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26943121)

http://blog.netflix.com/2008/10/opt-in-for-new-netflix-movie-player.html

Re:I think... (1)

_ivy_ivy_ (1081273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943133)

It doesn't work on Firefox? To think that I've been using it for all this time with it...

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26943191)

Silverlight?

But it works on Tivo too, so that would imply a working Silverlight 2 on Linux...

Re:I think... (1)

superslacker87 (998043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943241)

I mean, hell, it works on XBox360. Now what could Xbox360 possibly have in common with Internet Explorer?

Umm.... Microsoft?

Re:I think... (1)

stfvon007 (632997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945339)

It works fine on firefox, and has for about a month with the silverlight plugin. It may even be usable on linux soon when moonlight 2.0 comes out.

Comcast (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942831)

That is my ISP, need i say more?

Re:Comcast (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943531)

Apparently there is a solution to the Comcast problem. The solution is to call their business line. I just switched to them because my old ISP could not provide reliable service, and what I found out was that, at least in my area, all of the packet filtering and packet forging is restricted to "residential" accounts. I run my own mail server, and spent the first month pounding the connection with bittorrent. I would download Linux distros and then just delete them so that I could stress test the connection before disconnecting my old service. I pretty well saturated my 6mb line for almost an entire month with no noticable slow downs. There were a few times that it went down to 4mb, but there were a few times that it was a fast as 10mb, so on a whole the speed was what I would think I should expect.

I know that Comcast treats different customers in different areas differently, and I would rather use someone else just to keep choices available, but since I had no other choice, I can't really complain about what I am getting. At the time I signed up, the residential rates were $40/month and the business rates were $60/month. I am now paying $70/month because I needed 4 static IP addresses. (which are officially available to business accounts)

Not trying to convince anyone to switch here. Just saying that if you MUST go with Comcast, make a point to check out their business offerings, even if you are only going to use it for residential uses. For me, the extra $20/month is well worth not having to worry about the shady practices they pull on residential accounts.

Unwatchable (3, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942833)

Between the video quality and the quality of the selection, "watch instantly" is just about unwatchable.

The visual quality doesn't even begin to compare to DVD. There's a huge gap to make up to even consider comparing it with Bluray.

The question is, does a significant portion of the movie watching population care? It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

-Peter

Re:Unwatchable (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943005)

The video quality really depends on how the show/movie was filmed and your connection.

When I watched Season 3 episodes of Heroes and my connection was at the peak the episodes were streaming HD and they looked good, not as good as over-the-air but nothing too shabby, but when I watched with a medium connection, the quality on the TV went down but was acceptable; not on the computer though very noticeable.

Re:Unwatchable (2)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943369)

I'll concur with this.

My (completely unscientific) observation was that Netflix HD streaming is about on par with a DVD. Because it presumably uses VBR encoding, some scenes are better than what you'd see on a DVD, and some are a bit worse.

Overall, however, the quality's considerably better than what you'd see via a analogue SD broadcast, comparable to a DVD, but worse than a true 1080i HD broadcast. Given the convenience, this is "good enough" for me, especially considering that it's fairly easy to bump up the video quality without having to change the hardware.

Re:Unwatchable (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943245)

The question is, does a significant portion of the movie watching population care? It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

I consider this whole issue almost moot, since we already know how it will play out: streaming video will win.

Selection: It's obvious why selection will be so much greater without having to carry huge inventories of discs.

Image quality: again, it's only a matter of time. Online, software-based formats will have better quality since they can more easily evolve. For me this is already the case; since I haven't bought a blu-ray, the only way to get better-than-dvd quality is by downloading something in high-def and watching on a laptop. Bandwidth seems like a big-issue at the moment, but compared to the text-only Internet of the early 90's, we're already about 90% of the way there.

So what is this whole discussion about? Whether supplanting discs with streaming will take two years vs. five years?

Re:Unwatchable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26945041)

Between the video quality and the quality of the selection, "watch instantly" is just about unwatchable.

What's wrong with the selection? You get to see real cinema [imdb.com] instead of the facile pabulum you're fed at the theaters.

IMO it's better quality than digital cable (1)

judolphin (1158895) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945669)

It probably has something to do with your internet connection. I have a home theater PC using MyNetflix and there's no discernable difference between watching it online and on a DVD, and is often better than the signal I get from Comcast.

Enormouse Amounts of Material (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942839)

"Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens...? They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on.... [W]hen you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts in... enormous amounts of material."
-- United States Senate Commerce Committee Chairman

ROUS Amounts of Material (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942865)

enormous amounts of material.

Yeah, couldn't have managed to spell that in the subject correctly as well, could I.

Re:ROUS Amounts of Material (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943003)

It could have been a pun... Roars like a lion. Fights like a mouse... :)

Re:ROUS Amounts of Material (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943029)

Enromouse is a character in The Beano strip The Nibblers [wikipedia.org]

NetFlix vs Blockbuster (3, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942867)

The real challenge is how do you give users the flexibility to watch multiple movies at the same time or watch without an active internet connection?

BB advantage is that not only do you get videos by mail but you can return at stores for an instore rental plus 2x month I get free game/video rental coupons. As a result, BB is a better deal since I get about 2x the DVDs at a time, plus a large mail back catalog of stuff not in the store. As a result, I get the latest releases from the B&M and the older stuff by mail. BB has so far leveraged the online/ B&M model quite well with something NetFlix can't match. So for only a few bucks more than NetFlix I get a better deal.

The challenge I see for NetFlix is dealing with the moves towards bandwidth caps - a movie a night is likely to rapidly push people to the cap; and they are likely to be mad at NetFlix, not their ISP. As a result, I see pressure form larger ISPs, at least, to pressure NetFlix in paying for bandwidth or working out a revenue split where NetFlix is bundled with the service.

Of course, once WalMart buys NetFlix and RedBox all bets are off for BB. You read it here first.

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26942919)

I can watch (for example) an A-Team/Knight Rider marathon anytime I want over the tubes from Netflix and I don't have to pay extra for it. I'm also pretty sure Netflix doesn't censor its movies.

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (1)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943063)

Why would I be mad at Netflix because my ISP set too low bandwidth limits?

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943923)

Why would I be mad at Netflix because my ISP set too low bandwidth limits?

I think most internet users will see it as a content provider, not ISP issue. At any rate; they'll be faced with "pay an additional $25/month for higher caps" (about what it is in my area) or forgo NetFlix d/ls. My guess how that will play out?

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (1)

ion.simon.c (1183967) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945631)

I think most internet users will see it as a content provider, not ISP issue.

I really doubt this. Back when I was using dial-up at my parents house (in 1997), my computer-illiterate father didn't blame our ISP when they charged us extra for going over our hourly limit... he blamed the folks in the house who pushed us over said limit.

Also, your ISP has put a price tag on add'l bandwidth? Who's your provider?

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (1)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943217)

The challenge I see for NetFlix is dealing with the moves towards bandwidth caps - a movie a night is likely to rapidly push people to the cap; and they are likely to be mad at NetFlix, not their ISP. As a result, I see pressure form larger ISPs, at least, to pressure NetFlix in paying for bandwidth or working out a revenue split where NetFlix is bundled with the service.

That's precisely why cable ISPs have been pursuing bandwidth caps so aggressively, and net neutrality is so vital.

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943849)

Net neutrality is about treating all of the bytes and protocols the same. Caps and pay-per-use are different animals entirely.

And personally, I think ISPs should be able to shape traffic so that video streaming and VIOP have priority over email and http, which in turn is handled before unanttended background crap like torrents are delivered.

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943955)

Net neutrality is about treating all of the bytes and protocols the same. Caps and pay-per-use are different animals entirely.

And personally, I think ISPs should be able to shape traffic so that video streaming and VIOP have priority over email and http, which in turn is handled before unanttended background crap like torrents are delivered.

Of course, if they can shape traffic (I'm no saying that's good or bad) then they can shape "preferred providers" preferentially; degrading service for companies that don't kick in some cash

Now, if they could shape classes of traffic such as VOIP / video but had to do it on a non-preferential basis with the class then I'd say that is an idea worth exploring.

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26945145)

But cable providers imposing caps gives an anti-competitive advantage to the content they provide as cable subscription services. We need ISPs that aren't also in the content business themselves.

Re:NetFlix vs Blockbuster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26945161)

But Netflix's advantage is they don't have to pay for stores and store employees.

That's why they are profitable and blockbuster is slowly fading away. Smaller cities near here don't even have video rental stores anymore.

Broadband caps need to be stopped by government regulation or actual competition in that market. I'm fine with caps as options, but this idea of controlling customers has got to stop.

Good enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26942915)

The video quality doesn't have to be that great. The BBC's iplayer [bbc.co.uk] is easily good enough for me for watching tv shows already and the same quality would be fine for movies too. The technology's already there - that it's likely to get even better in the future is just a bonus.

5 yr plan (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942947)

Considering that he went on record in the end of the year shareholders meeting to say that in 5 yrs Netflix will be completely done with physical media of all types, I don't find this to be remotely surprising or even eyebrow raising.

I'm not sure that's quite right (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#26942959)

There are those who claim that physical discs like DVDs, Blu-ray, and whatever format will eventually supplant Blu-ray will always deliver a superior viewing experience versus anything that will be available via streaming

While this is the argument that gets bandied about a lot, I don't believe it's actually the crux of the matter. But I think it's more accurate of the situation to frame it this way: For the majority of people, is the (overall) streaming experience good enough? Because for a lot of folks, convenience may be more important than a small uptick in quality.

For a somewhat analogous situation, I look to my teenage daughter's friends and their music buying habits. They almost exclusively buy their music from iTunes, even though no one can really argue that an iTunes or iTunes Plus encoding is as good as a CD, and the costs are more or less equivalent. But the quality difference is quite small (subjectively speaking, of course), and the convenience factor is huge.

There will always be some people for whom absolute quality trumps all else. The REAL question is, is this group large enough to sustain an ongoing market of manufacturing and selling physical media?

Re:I'm not sure that's quite right (1)

SleepingWaterBear (1152169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943609)

There will always be some people for whom absolute quality trumps all else. The REAL question is, is this group large enough to sustain an ongoing market of manufacturing and selling physical media?

Actually, this isn't likely to be a serious question a few years from now the way things are going. In the short term streaming media may be lower quality than physical media, but I would be surprised if 5 years from now your average internet connection weren't fast enough to handle streaming high def video.

At least unless all the FUD Comcast and the like are spreading about the internet collapsing is true, but I've never seen a shred of solid evidence for it.

Re:I'm not sure that's quite right (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945741)

Actually, this isn't likely to be a serious question a few years from now the way things are going. In the short term streaming media may be lower quality than physical media, but I would be surprised if 5 years from now your average internet connection weren't fast enough to handle streaming high def video.

The last-mile physical wiring hasn't improved much over the last 10 years, and I doubt it will over the next 10. Fiber to the home ain't coming soon.

Cable internet service started living up to its potential a few years back, they had horrible main-office problems before that which (in my experience) made DSL more attractive, at least until the telcos took it over. If you have cable internet service, you might expect to upgrade to 15 or 50Mbps in the next 5 years, depending on the quality of the wires to your home, much less than that if you're stuck with DSL.

I don't see cable modems making the technological leaps and bounds that voice line modems did in the 80's-90's, there's just not the same incentive to improve after they can stream "acceptable" video.

Re:I'm not sure that's quite right (1)

SuperMog2002 (702837) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945827)

Fiber to the home ain't coming soon.

Strange, I was under the impression that I've had 15 mbps fiber to the home for the past three years. Verizon even kicked that up to 20 mbps a few months ago.

Re:I'm not sure that's quite right (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943661)

Well right now streaming quality stinks. It doesn't even include 5.1 sound and I get better resolution from my upscaling DVD player. And the catalog available is a small fraction of what is on physical media through Netflix.

Plus how do I stream if I am on vacation somewhere, or in an airplane?

Then of course there is the problem of DRM. What if the producer decides to withdraw the film from distribution? We have already seen this type of nonsense with George Lucas.

Don't get me started with music downloads - these are the purview of the Top 40 crowd. Anyone who is a bit older and has more sophisticated tastes in music isn't buying from iTunes. While CD sales of pop tunes has cratered, CD sales of other genre is still going strong and has hardly been affected by online distribution.

Then of course there is the substantial percentage of the population that does not have access to broadband, due to either location or lack of desire. These people may still desire to rent or purchase movies.

Much like what has happened in music we will continue to have physical media.

Re:I'm not sure that's quite right (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943847)

Plus how do I stream if I am on vacation somewhere, or in an airplane?

I understand (and agree with) your point - but I'm assuming that alongside the widespread adoption of streaming will come the ability to purchase digital versions of movies, or some sort of "offline viewing" mode for exactly these situations - similar to how Google is working on offline viewing for mail and docs that are "in the cloud".

Then of course there is the problem of DRM. What if the producer decides to withdraw the film from distribution? We have already seen this type of nonsense with George Lucas.

Agreed, although I think this might be less of a problem with movies than with music, simply because (I suspect) most people will want to see a movie once and then never again. My only frame of reference is with my family - I know we buy very few movies anymore now that Netflix is available, and the number we've watched more than once (over the past few years we've been members) can be counted on one hand. But while the typical pop movie is watched soon after release and then quickly forgotten, it certainly would be problematic with good films that have staying power - like if Orson Welles had been able to pull the original versions of Citizen Kane or The Magnificent Ambersons out of distribution a decade after release, or (more likely) Ted Turner had bought the rights and then made sure only his colorized and personally re-edited version was the only option available.

Re:I'm not sure that's quite right (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943949)

"...even though no one can really argue that an iTunes or iTunes Plus encoding is as good as a CD..."

256kbps AAC? It's damned close. Besides, if you're walking around listening to music on an iPod or in a car ambient noise will pretty much kill any perceived differences in quality.

Re:I'm not sure that's quite right (1)

gemada (974357) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945351)

The difference between audio and video is that i think your ears will put up with lower quality than your eyes are willing to.

Re:I'm not sure that's quite right (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945705)

There will always be some people for whom absolute quality trumps all else. The REAL question is, is this group large enough to sustain an ongoing market of manufacturing and selling physical media?

In the dying days of the vinyl record, there was a premium product, something like "Original Master Series" or whatever, they'd charge maybe a 50% markup for marginally better materials that, in my opinion, did deliver a product that was noticeably cleaner sounding and longer lasting. If you played your albums to destruction and then replaced them, they were actually a good value.

Maybe one title in 100 was made available in the premium format, and even when the premium version was available, the regular version outsold it many times over. The press and the critics harp on quality, the bulk of the market buys whatever is convenient, cheap, and not outright horrible (8 tracks?).

Current internet too slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26942963)

There is no way the current infrastructure can handle the load when everyone now watching physical media (or worse: tv) starts doing so over the internet in high-def.

One day it will be here but I don't see this happening within 5 years.

plus 1, Troll) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26942995)

g=uests. Some people were nullified by then JordGan Hubbard

Why does there have to be a 'winner' (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943027)

OK, business leaders and others have to back the right technology and/or business model, but things seem to me to be less clear-cut than the old 'what will kill DVD like it kiled VHS' debate.

Things are less simple, with content available from a bewildering variety of sources, for an equally wide range of target devices. Streaming TV to your cell phone, DVD/Blueray for home via rental or mail, or streaming/download, low-res mp3 or music videos for the kids on PC/iPods/phone...whatever.

So the question is perhaps, without pissing off their customers with court cases or DRM, how will content creators manage to make their offer available to the widest range of people - in the widest range of formats - and still make some money?

Re:Why does there have to be a 'winner' (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943089)

Offer them as free and DRM free downloads with embedded video advertising that is pause-able but not skip-able. If it's free and can be played on everything and the advertising is minimal in proportion to the length of the content, then most people would be content with it, and only a small percentage would resort to ripping the ads out. Hell they could even offer a premium edition of the content for $1 a copy. At the same time they could also produce box sets of collectors editions and things that a portion of people like to collect. That will never happen though, content producers/providers are too greedy and shortsighted and so are ISPs.

Re:Why does there have to be a 'winner' (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943977)

"... as free and DRM free downloads with embedded video advertising that is pause-able but not skip-able...."

If they're going to be "pause-able but not skip-able" then they're also going to have to be DRM'ed in some fashion. You couldn't enforce the rule otherwise.

Re:Why does there have to be a 'winner' (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944749)

If they're going to be "pause-able but not skip-able" then they're also going to have to be DRM'ed in some fashion. You couldn't enforce the rule otherwise.

For the DRM I am thinking more along the lines of no restrictions on play-counts, number of copies and what devices it can be played on. I'm aware that there has to be some form of DRM for the embedded unskip-able ads, but it is only to prevent people from removing ads from a free version. If they did it like hulu with 30-60 ads and only 5 per hour show and 3 per half-hour most people would put up with it, and those who didn't would either buy the ad-free ones for $1 or whatever, rip out the ads themselves or download a pre-add-removed version. Which in most cases will be a small number of people who do remove the ads.

USB Stick movies? (1)

TurtleBlue (202905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943045)

Considering they already exist and are format neutral, can somebody tell me why solid state media, particularly USB keys and such, aren't viewed as the next logical step in all this? Hell, they've already done it with ghostbusters [boingboing.net] supposedly, with DRM even. Why wouldn't blockbuster just load up your USB key with whatever movie you rented that night if your connectivity sucked enough to not download it? Why wouldn't you buy "The Rock" on a key if it was important enough for you to own it?

I'm not saying it's perfect, and I'm sure the studios are drooling over streaming "pay-as-you-go" models, but Blu-Ray isn't exactly compatible with my laptop when I'm on a plane. And it's still a way to let me carry the bits home ("ownership") without Sony dictating the terms.

Of course, I may have answered my own question with that last part.

Re:USB Stick movies? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943161)

Cost for the media, in all likelihood. A pressed CD/DVD is on the order of pennies. A USB key with the same capacity is still like $10.

What I would see is some sort of itunes style system with cached storage of the video. That way the user is paying for the storage of the stuff they want to cache. A $100 1TB drive should be able to store 100 not terribly compressed HD Movies, giving you a storage cost of $1 each.

Snort... (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943317)

no.. 2gb usb keys? fastest cheapest I easily found online sale price was 7.5 when purchased in quantites around a few hundred from a promo-imprinting company

A large corp could easily generate 1000's of consistent usb keys for far less.

you are correct, it's at least an order of magnatude, but it's also at least half of what you suggest.

Re:Snort... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944827)

2gb isn't really enough; DVDs are 4.7/8.5 depending on whether they're dual layer or not.

Thus, you're stuck going to 8GB sticks, and those are still at least $10.

Re:USB Stick movies? (1)

Deagol (323173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943855)

This past holiday season, my local Wal Mart had an entire end-cap of 2GB (or was it 4GB) black Kingston DataTraveler sticks for $5/each. I'm sure in large enough quantity, distributing compressed movies in this fashion could be profitable.

Imagine collections of hundreds of decent-quality movies on USB sticks (or, even better, mini-SD) fitting in a cigar box? I could see myself paying $2.50 to *maybe* $5 per film in this format, assuming the Netflix high-quality stream format (they weigh in at around 1000MB per hour in size). When I need some mindless background entertainment, I can deal with the lower quality. If there's a movie or series that I want to watch over and over again in DVD+ quality, I'd splurge for the better format.

More format options would be a win for all parties involved. Seems to be working for the music market. I just wish the music distributors would lower their prices. I'd love to jump on the Amazon MP3 offerings, but not until a full album purchase is no more than 50% the price of the physical CD. This $1/track offering (on average) is still way too high.

Re:USB Stick movies? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944617)

Panasonic is working on a 64GB SDXC in the SD form factor. This would make a nice carry home from the supermarket format for HD video.

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of backup tapes.

Prime time. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943127)

Well I'm ready to jump onto [buffering...] this right away. I kid but at least with OTA, cable, or satellite I've never had that particular issue. I think online has a ways to go before it's a replacement.* At least with DVD's , Satellite, and OTA when the weather knocks out service, a generator fixes that.

*There's also the quality issue. Buying a HDTV set but getting at most 720p content.

Re:Prime time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26943513)

If you have cable, then get a DVR. Then, I think you'll find that you tend to buffer about 16 minutes of programming before watching an hour long show.

Bandwidth is key (1)

certain death (947081) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943329)

I have a solid 6 mbps connection dedicated to my Netflix/Media systems. Just watching a HD movie via the Netflix Roku box, it constantly buffers...how much bandwidth do I _really_ need to get HiDef?!?

Re:Bandwidth is key (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943845)

I have a solid 6 mbps connection dedicated to my Netflix/Media systems. Just watching a HD movie via the Netflix Roku box, it constantly buffers

Is the link as solid as you think it is - or are you in competition with everyone on-line at 9 PM Eastern Time?

Re:Bandwidth is key (1)

certain death (947081) | more than 5 years ago | (#26943987)

Nah, I watch movies when I should be working from home. :o) Really tho...the normal content is fast enough with good quality, but the HD is B A D ! !

Re:Bandwidth is key (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944233)

I run with a DSL connection and a Roku Netflix player.

I can monitor bandwidth on my router (Tomato firmware on a Linksys router) and I originally was signed up for 1.5 Mbps download / 678 kbs upload service tier from Qwest. Testing against www.speakeasy.net/speedtest always showed pretty close to 1.5 rated speeds.

When I hooked up the Roku, I monitored bandwidth to see how much I was using and the stream was holding a fairly constant 1.3 Mbps download rate during an HD movie.

As I noted above, I wanted a little more headroom so switched to 7 Mbps download DSL service tier and now, while the average download speed is still around 1.3 Mbps, the usage shows peaks to around 5-6 Mbps for about ten seconds then about 30 or so seconds of nothing.

As an aside, Star Trek season 1 in HD over the Roku is amazing! I've never seen it look this good before.

Re:Bandwidth is key (1)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944265)

I know those numbers don't quite add up. I have seen the quality "dots" drop down when launching a show so the 1.3 Mbps numbers might also represent a lower quality image than HD.

Concerns - Bandwidth Caps and Selection (1)

Xian97 (714198) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944109)

With several recent stories about bandwidth caps by several major ISPs and trials by others, I can see that being a problem. Say you watched a movie a day and the stream averaged about a gigabyte (just guessing), that would be 30 gigabytes a month, about half of the allowance I have seen mentioned for some ISPs. I can see you hitting your cap pretty quick.

Currently I have nearly 100 movies, tv shows, documentaries, etc in my queue. Of those only 2 have the PLAY button beside them. They are going to have to increase the selection of titles before it will replace physical DVDs.

As I RTFA... (1)

Thrakamazog (794533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944431)

I go to the Netflix site and get this: We're sorry, the Netflix website is temporarily unavailable. Our shipping centers are continuing to send and receive DVDs , so your movies will be processed as usual. And you can still instantly watch movies via your Netflix ready device. Our engineers are working hard to bring the site back up as soon as possible.. We appreciate your patience and, again, we apologize for the inconvenience. If you need further assistance, please call us at 1-866-636-3079. They have other issues to work out before they consider a streaming only plan.

What about their customers without broadband? (1)

rivercityrandom (626724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944621)

If Netflix went to a streaming-only service it would kill it for me. I subscribe to Netflix precisely because I don't have broadband internet suitable for streaming. I live in a rural area where dialup, and Verizon wireless internet with a 5 GB/month cap, are the only options. The closest chain video store is also about 15 miles away from my home. They need to realize that their DVD by mail service opens up a world to entertainment to millions of rural customers who have a mailbox but no broadband, and moving to streaming only would definitely affect their bottom line. Of course, if the Rural Broadband Initiative brings a T1 or FiOS line to my doorstep, I'll be all for it.

Re:What about their customers without broadband? (1)

rivercityrandom (626724) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944697)

Yes, I did RTFA. Here is what it says about Netflix's desire to cut out their DVD service:

In an interview with Bloomberg.com, Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, is siding firmly with the latter camp and it would even appear that Netflix is gearing up to move all of its eggs from the mail-distribution basket to the online streaming basket. Hastings indicated that perhaps as soon as later this year or sometime in 2010, Netflix might start offering online-streaming-only subscription plans (beyond just its current Starz plan--see below). The Bloomberg report states:

"The company's success hinges on its ability to transition to online video from DVDs, Hastings said yesterday in an interview in San Francisco. Netflix faces a challenge similar to the one AOL had as it lost subscribers who shifted from Internet service via a telephone connection to high-speed access, he said." (emphasis mine)

It sure sounds to me like they will eventually phase out DVD mailing entirely. I wonder if any other service (besides Blockbuster) will be able to fill in the gap.

Quality, download, caps, etc.? (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#26944809)

How are the HD quality for streaming? Can we download instead of streaming to avoid lags, skippings, artifacts, etc.? I know some ISPs (e.g., Comcast, TWC in some areas [probably everywhere eventually]) have caps so this streaming service would be useless if the downloads are huge.

First 4ost (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26945029)

at my freelance This post brought proble>m stems May do, may not to the original BSDI is also deaD, overly morbid and whether to repeat EROSION OF USER

Too bad their current selection sucks (1)

hamburgler007 (1420537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945477)

I am a netflix subscriber, and their streaming video is a nice add-on, but far from a replacement to their dvd selection. They do have some excellent movies available for streaming, but far too few, and from the limited selection they offer 90% of it is crap. I don't see them having a selection large enough to warrant having a streaming only subscription in the next year.

So what. (1)

man_ls (248470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26945743)

Does Netflix have anything good on VOD yet? Last time I checked, it was nothing but movies that flopped at the box office, were > 10 years old, or were direct-to-video releases or niche films in the first place.

I canceled my subscription to Netflix after I stopped watching DVDs (Blockbuster is much easier, and my movie-renting tends to be spontaneous rather than planned) and their VOD service had nothing at all of interest on it.

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