Things To Like And Dislike In The Plan To Build Netflix Directly Into Your TV

from the good-for-netflix,-but-for-everyone-else? dept

Various authorized movie download sites have been flopping lately due to various reasons -- but one of the big ones is the continued difficulty in actually being able to watch the downloaded movies on your television. In many cases, part of the problem is the DRM that many movie download sites use, but an even more fundamental problem is that there still isn't a decent link between most household computers and household televisions. Apparently, Netflix is trying to solve this. Late Wednesday, the company announced plans to get various consumer electronics firms, starting with LG, to build technology directly into TVs or other set-top boxes that will allow Netflix subscribers to download and watch movies directly on the TV. Netflix had considered building its own branded set-top boxes, but wisely reconsidered. Given the proliferation of set-top boxes, and the dismal failure of other companies that have tried to go that route, it makes sense to get consumer electronics makers to build the tech directly into their own offerings.

Initially, from Netflix's perspective, this plan makes a lot of sense. It's already been experimenting with streaming movies to subscribers on their computers (at no extra cost) for about a year. Netflix also has the name recognition and clout to get consumer electronics firms to go along with this plan (and it wouldn't be surprising to see a few other CE companies fall into line quickly behind LG). However, that doesn't mean this is the best result for consumers (or even for Netflix in the long run). By building in a proprietary solution that effectively only works with Netflix, buyers won't have much of a choice. They won't be able to compare other movie streaming/downloading services via their TVs and will have to effectively make a choice and stick with it for the life of their TV. What would have been a lot more interesting and better for everyone (perhaps other than Netflix) would have been for the CE companies to agree to a standard by which various movie distribution firms could have streamed movies directly to TVs, and then allowed those companies to offer competing services. I don't want to buy a DVD player that only plays movies from Netflix, so why should my TV only play streaming videos from Netflix?

While it may initially seem like a win for Netflix to lock out the competition this way, that may not be the case. If Blockbuster is smart (a big "if") it's currently running around trying to get CE companies to align with it, instead. Then we have another standards battle situation, where people decide not to buy any such solution until everyone agrees to play nice (witness the HD DVD standards battle that has greatly slowed the growth in next generation DVDs). If there were a standard that others could plug into, then it would encourage more people to upgrade. However, if the competition is between a "Netflix" device and some other device, it may make people wait to see how the market really shakes out.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    jdragon, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 4:52am

    Just sell to Apple already

    Sell while you're still worth something...

     

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  2.  
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    nipsey russell, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 4:57am

    wtf, who wants another box?
    why arent we just working on better media extenders in general and then having netflix et al piggy back on those?

     

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  3.  
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    CHL Instructor, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 5:02am

    Our satellite service commitment...

    Our two year commitment to DirecTV is up, and we are terminating it. I haven't watched the damned thing in over a year anyway.

    Good riddance. After all, sewage is something I prefer to get pumped *out* of the house.
    --
    Concealed carry is a civil right

     

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  4.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 5:33am

    In related news...

    (via BoingBoing)
    Bad Cop No Netflix
    http://davisfreeberg.com/2008/01/03/bad-copp-no-netflix/

    Of course, I would argue that anyone stupid enough to still be using Microsoft products deserves every single last bit of the pain they'll no doubt get.

     

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  5.  
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    Ima Fish, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 5:49am

    "but an even more fundamental problem is that there still isn't a decent link between most household computers and household televisions."

    A DVI to HDMI cable worked pretty well for me. It only cost a few bucks from newegg. God, are people really that ignorant about technology?!

     

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  6.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 5:57am

    Re:

    No, they are not. Your just ignorant about current consumer habits. Like most people don't have TVs that have an HDMI connector or even just a VGA. S-Video from a laptop doesn't work very well ether.

    Most people that can make that work already have and Netflix won't be targeting them.

     

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  7.  
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    Tom Cellie, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 5:59am

    Re: Just sell to Apple already

    I agree, the money isn't in developing a proprietary box that pulls the Netflix feed, its building a box that broadcasts ANYTHING displayed on the computer to the TV. Consumers like choices. If I were Netflix I would be more concerned with contracting network TV and adding to (the very dismal) offering of movies available for streaming. I LOVED some of the NBC series of 2006/2007 shows I would not have tried had it not been for Netflix but then in it's infinite wisdom NBC decided to get in the internet game and can the deal they had with Netflix. Only problem was the worthless API on the NBC site, the constant phoning home and the amazing system hog that the app became after writing to my registry and hogging too much RAM. So now I have no current NBC show on the computer cause NBC is clueless and NETFLIX is wasting energy thinking about TV. Duh!

     

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    Danny, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 6:01am

    I'm all for technology...

    but really. The standard defiinition DVD is just fine as it is. And renting movies from Blockbuster Online is just the right speed. Sometimes I may hold movies for a week because I'm busy doing other things. So downloading them will only cause them to accumulate even faster (like my TiVo box that is always at about 80% full). I'm almost in the same camp with CHL Instructor. I find myself watching more reruns of old shows than watching new shows. So basically as soon as I have the disposable income to start buying tv box sets (I just got both seasons of Dead Like Me at Best Buy for $40) on a regular basis (like a season of some show every few weeks or so) I'll be kissing my direct tv goodbye as well.

     

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    4-80-sicks, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 6:08am

    Re: Re:

    wtf, who wants another box?

    Did you miss the part where it says Netflix had considered building its own branded set-top boxes, but wisely reconsidered? I love people who can write but can't read...

    most people don't have TVs that have an HDMI connector or even just a VGA.

    This, and most people don't have their computer next to their TV. In my parents' house for instance, the two are about as far apart as they could be (TV is downstairs at the east end, the computer is upstairs at the west end.)

     

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    4-80-sicks, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 6:14am

    Re: I'm all for technology...

    The standard defiinition DVD is just fine as it is.

    I agree picture quality-wise, but how about scratched discs? Every other disc I get from Netflix or the video store, I have to spend time buffing out the scratches so I can actually watch the thing! Would be nice if they would do it, but no...pain in the ass, I'd like to get digital delivery if only for that. Then again, just as DVDs solved problems with rewinding and tape stretching, digital delivery may have other, unforseen problems.

     

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    Overcast, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 6:45am

    Couldn't Netflix simply turn around and offer to 'host' movies for other companies using their 'stream'?

    Might work out that way..

    And I wouldn't mind another box in any event. If I could stream movies on demand, I may well not have much of a use for cable - well, other than High Speed internet, lol.

     

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    wirelessman, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 6:46am

    standards anyone?

    why don't Netflix and Blockbuster start up a standard body(e.g. the WiMAX forum) for streaming/downloading/datacasting content onto end-user devices. They can even wrap it up in as much DRM as they like and put a bow on top. Any company can join the standard development process (other service providers, equipment vendors, content providers, etc.) Then they can come up with something that anyone can put into any TV or other box (PS3, PC, AppleTV, whatever) and work with any service, avoiding the VHS/Beta, BluRay/HD-DVD bullshit. It'd take cooperation and a bit of vision but it's the best path to widespread adoption of such services.

    That being said, this industry isn't exactly associated with vision (especially when the MPAA gets involved) so I'll stick with bittorrent.

     

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    Ima Fish, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "This, and most people don't have their computer next to their TV. "

    I was only responding to the ridiculous notion that "that there still isn't a decent link between most household computers and household televisions." There are any numbers of cheap "links" between TVs and computers.

    The fact that some people might choose not to use these cheap "links" and might choose not to have a computer near their TVs is simply irrelevant.

    If people want to watch movies streamed from Netflix on their TVs there are plenty of simple ways to do it, if the choice is made.

     

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    4-80-sicks, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:15am

    Re: standards anyone?

    why don't Netflix and Blockbuster start up a standard body...

    Blu-ray has a standards body. So does HD-DVD. Like you say, it will take cooperation, and it's the best path. But it will never happen. Corporations are so stupid...

     

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    pedantic, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:17am


    They won't be able to compare other movie streaming/downloading services via their TVs and will have to effectively make a choice and stick with it for the life of their TV.


    No, just the life of the set-top box.

     

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  16.  
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    Cable, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Curious as to how this would be streamed to the house. Meaning, HD requires lots of bandwidth. Either you have to have one heck of a download pipe from your ISP or deals would need to be worked with MSO's.

     

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  17.  
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    4-80-sicks, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ...If people want to watch movies streamed from Netflix on their TVs there are plenty of simple ways to do it, if the choice is made.


    If it doesn't work for most consumers, it's not "decent." Most people don't have media center computers--heck quite a few only have one computer at all--and see a computer as something that is used at a desk.

    The old-fashioned view--of an entertainment center made of multiple dumb, single-purpose devices--is still the prevalent view. Yes, a choice has to be made. But fifteen years ago, such a choice consisted of a small thing with one connection and a remote. People still don't set clocks on their VCRs (if they have them), they certainly don't want to deal with an operating system.

     

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  18.  
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    Binston, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:43am

    meh

    Here's the deal. Most people today dont have a newer TV. I do. I have been working on computers for 14 years and have a nice setup for my tv. I have a LCD tv with hdmi AND vga, it also has a coax pass through on it (3 RF jacks - analog in AND out and HD in). I have a PC built JUST FOR the tv. Its WinXP and I use the TV for the monitor. I also used the TV's analog RF passthrough and hooked it up to a tuner card in my pc. The tuner card has an Mpeg2 hardware encoder. (Hauppauge pvr-150) So what I do is watch DVD's on the HDMI cable, switch to vga input and surf the web, play games, or watch ANY video on the pc on the TV full screen, and I use the pc as a DVR as well, watching all my shows recorded on the PC. I dont need the service Netflix is looking to provide, I can use the plain streaming service. PC's are dirt cheap these days and you can build one for $500 that will do this fine. All you need is a newer flat screen TV and the know how. The problem in this whole picture is people. I have done it and LOVE my setup and its quite easy. Everyone who comes over asks how i did it. The issue is that people are SLOW to adopt technology here in the US, and they literally don't want to know how it works. ( I worked in a retail service dept for 7 years and people flat refused to listen when I try and tell them how to fix their issue and prevent a reoccurence "JUST FIX IT so I can take it home! You're talking swahili to me!" "But sir/mam, you need to know how to USE your pc, i'm describing a BASIC function." This netflix thing will flop too unless its open platform. You don't need Windows Media Center Edition or anything fancy. Stick with a basic os (HA!) like XP or Linux. The PC you use to build your media center will be INFINITELY more useful than any "box" provided for a single purpose. My PC is on a wireless network, has access to all my files, pictures, the internet, movies, etc. I can play ANY video, stream music off internet radio straight to my home theatre speakers, edit videos, display pics as my screensaver, hell ANYTHING you have a stupid dedicated device in your home for (those crappy little 7" digital picture frames that have 256mb for pics...I have 5gb) and these "features" cost me nothing more!! I poo poo on dedicated "boxes"...

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:52am

    Too ad they never pulled off the deal with TiVo

    A monthly service from Netflix would work better than the current Amazon deal, of course I would love t o have both. As a TiVo series 3 owner, I can watch the Amazon movies while they download (a common criticism of the service, maybe they fixed it on series 2 as well, I don't know).

    I would absolutely have purchased an HD or BlueRay player if it weren't for the format war, but my parents bought a Beta VCR, so I know what it is like to build a library and have the format die. The cost of the player alone isn't the problem. A dual mode doesn't solve the problem either. I'm sitting it out for now.

     

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  20.  
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    Ima Fish, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "If it doesn't work for most consumers"

    If a consumer can buy a $600 PS3, connect it to a network, and connect it to a TV, there is simply no reason they cannot do the same to a PC. If connecting a PS3, Wii, or a 360 is too complicated for "most consumers," that's not really my problem.

    "Most people don't have media center computers"

    That's asinine. Before DVDs, most people did not have DVD players. But they bought them and installed them without any major injuries. I don't see how this is any different.

    "The old-fashioned view--of an entertainment center made of multiple dumb, single-purpose devices--is still the prevalent view."

    Actually, gaming consoles have been multi-purpose for several years.

    "Yes, a choice has to be made."

    Once again, if someone can choose to install a Blu-Ray player, they can choose to install a PC. The argument that there is no "decent link" between PCs and TV is as ludicrous as the argument that there is no "decent link" between Blu-ray players and TVs.

     

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  21.  
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    freak3dot, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 8:21am

    Where there is a will there is a way

    The video from the PC can be sent to the TV very easily. There are lots of ways. I'm with Ima Fish on this. But I do see the oposition's point that Netflix just wants to make it consumer friendly (and make a buck).


    @Binston: I thought I was the only one who tried to build more functionality into my computer instead of my entertainment center. I don't want more boxes, I want everything built into my PC. To get a large display, I may use a TV (or even a projector) but the PC is still the picture source. I just don't understand why people want this hugh entertainment center with multiple set top boxes. My PC is my stereo, TV, PC (of course), game system, DVD player, CD Player, and more that I'm sure I am forgeting. The budget to build this PC was 1500. I'm sure this is less than the combined total of all those boxes in the entertainment center.


    freak3dot

     

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  22.  
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    Fushta, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:04am

    HD On-Demand

    My cable company (Insight Communications) recently started offering HD programming and movies on Demand. Granted, the selection is limited, but I expect the movie offering to increase substantially in the next few months.

    Netflix has a great idea here, but they need to consider their competition already has the technology to complete. They need to offer similar/better quality, lower pricing, and wider selection; which I'm sure they can do.

     

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  23.  
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    JLA, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:05am

    Re: Where there is a will there is a way

    I would love to be able to use a PC as an all-in-one media box, and I can probably do it myself (although Im not as tech savy as some of the people here. However, there are many factor I (and probably most other 'typical' user) would have to consider:
    1. I already own other dedicated boxes (amp, DVD, DVR, etc)
    2. Even if I were willing to fork over the cash together a media center PC, it would take considerable time and effort to get to where I actually like to be (just putting together the hardware)
    3. After the hardware, loading the content (current DVDs for example).
    4. Configuring remote control functionality (love my Logithech!)
    5. You get the picture. It can be done but you can see how much 'will' I have to overcome to get to my 'way'. One can imagine why a typical user can't be bothered.

     

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  24.  
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    jedidiah, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:14am

    How old is your TV?

    Nevermind DVI. Plenty of TV's these days have
    been coming with RGB ports. Many TV's also have
    DVI ports. In all likelihood, if your TV is
    not some dinosaur that will be oboleted by the
    digital switchover then it will be no big deal
    to hook a PC up to it (even without a converter
    of some sort).

    RGB also avoids all of that DRM nonsense.

     

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  25.  
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    nipseyrussell, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re: Re:

    " ''wtf, who wants another box?''
    Did you miss the part where it says Netflix had considered building its own branded set-top boxes, but wisely reconsidered? I love people who can write but can't read..."

    oh, a TV's not a box. thanks

     

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  26.  
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    Jack, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:34am

    TIVO has become my media center

    With a TiVo HD or Series 3 you can replace your set top cable box and gain a full Media Center. Record and Playback HD. Store and play your MP3 library. Store and view your Photos. Download affordable movies and TV shows (even new shows) from Amazon.com.

    The E-SATA (external hard drive) compatibility assures you of virtually limitless storage. Recorded content can be moved to and viewed on your laptop or iPod making those devices additional storage for the TiVo also.

    You get all of this with a slick interface that can be operated by my 70 year old mother.
    NetFlix has some catching up to do.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:40am

    This is a bad idea. Dotcoms can come and go, but TVs sit around for quite some time. To me, it seems stupid to build technology like that into a TV, especially if and when the company goes bust and the service becomes nonexistent. Now, if you want to put stuff like that into all-in-one set top boxes, that might not be so bad, because those are a lot cheaper and easier to replace than TVs. I just don't like the idea of having to pay for R&D to build stuff like this into the TVs that I will probably never use.

     

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  28.  
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    Boost, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:50am

    Re: Our satellite service commitment...

    Not that I disagree with your conceal/carry stance, CHL instructor, but do you think you can leave it off of these posts...thanks.

     

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  29.  
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    jedidiah, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: Where there is a will there is a way

    All that's really needed is a media extender that doesn't suck. A big part of this problem is caused by Big Content that thinks it's a good idea to get in everyone's way. There are already mediocre versions of this idea available for cheap (and not so cheap). The problem really isn't that hard and the necessary technology is cheap and only getting cheaper.

    An entire PC is overkill. However, PC's are infinitely flexible and (relatively) easy to dedicate to the task.

    Media servers are like DVRs. It's hard to fully appreciate or understand their coolness until you've actually used one.

     

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  30.  
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    Kouger, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re:

    So do you buy a new TV with an HDMI connector that works with any PC or do you buy a new TV from LG that just works with Netflix?

     

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  31.  
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    boost, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:53am

    wireless tv reciever

    I just read about a wireless HDTV reciever that you can hooke up to your TV and Digital Sound system that recieves G or N (I can't rmemeber which) wireless signals from your computer. You can use your computer to serve full HD movies to your TV without having to have a physical connection. Sounded pretty sweet to me.

     

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  32.  
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    Tony, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 9:57am

    Not such a bad idea Mike

    First off, I agree that if it is a solution that is hardware based it will be bad for consumers as they will be stuck with it; however, I seriously doubt it will be hardware based.

    The only way that such an offering would work (from a CE standpoint) is to integrate an RJ45 ethernet interface to the TV and have software that goes and gets the movies. That being the case, even if it is specific to Netflix at the time of purchase, the software can always be changed to go get movies from Blockbuster via an update from the manufacturers web site.

    Then, IF they are smart, the other industry players should all get together and go to the IETF and draft an RFC so there will be an industry standard protocol for such an offering. In this manner consumers can be confident that their TV WONT be tied down to one movie vendor. Even if they purchase the first gen (vendor specific) product, it should easily be updated to use another vendor or the IETF standard via a software/firmware update since the only hardware should be an ethernet port and a hard drive.

    I can see this working since broadband Internet has become ubiquitous.

     

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  33.  
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    Tony, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 10:16am

    The Misunderstandings Dept. ;)

    I just read all the other comments and there seems to be a lot of talk of PC's, set-top boxes, the quality of streaming video, DVI to HDMI, media center, etc. . .

    All that has nothing to do with anything. It's a "Plug your Internet into your NEW TV" and start watching Netflix (et al.). As for streaming, it's not likely to be streaming as we know it today (Winblows Media Player), but rather a DVD or HD-DVD quality product if it's streaming at all. It may work more like a DVR.

    Either way, what people have now is a moot point as what Netflix is talking about is to be included in the "next gen" TVs so what grandma owns today is of no consequence.

     

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  34.  
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    NPGMBR, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 10:23am

    Article on Another Site Says Differently

    I read an article on a competing site that says Netflix's solution would NOT be propritary and will be available to a variety of devices.

     

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    Waiting for the other shoe to drop, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 10:53am

    tick, tick, tick

    I'm wondering how long it will be before Mike says that all these movie bits and bytes should be free because they lack scarcity in the market...

     

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  36.  
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    4-80-sicks, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 10:54am

    @Ima Fish: I do know what you mean. My computer's hooked up to my TV, too. Good for you. Good for me. I'm not saying it should be your problem. Just that a second computer connected to the TV is not something a lot of consumers think about these days. A game console is. It can play DVDs too? Great. A computer is a whole other thing (in their eyes), it requires proper shutdown, codec installation, etc. etc. Can it be done? Of course it can. Will Joe Average who works at a desk pushing papers around do it? mmmmmprobably not. It's not even on his radar. Will this change as digital distribution becomes more prevalent? Maybe. But of the general population, you and I are probably in the top quartile as far as technical or computer knowledge goes. That bottom 75% currently don't want to think about anything more than "connect signal cables, connect power cable, push 'on' button, use control interface that came with device." This is why home theater installation companies make thousands of dollars per job--the second quartile or less are thinking about this. That's their target. It doesn't even occur to the bottom 50% (or more). nipseyrussell: oh, a TV's not a box. thanks

    uh, they already have a TV...the question is do people want another component (besides the DVD player, cable box, VCR)? Requiring that just for Netflix's service is a bad move on the part of Netflix (see "dismal failure" link in the first paragraph of the article)

     

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  37.  
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    SilentMountain, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 1:56pm

    how about supporting OS X first...?

    Maybe Netflix should work on an OS X player first for those of us lucky enough to have MacMini's as media centers.

     

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  38.  
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    nipsey russell, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 5:14pm

    Re:

    me: oh, a TV's not a box. thanks
    you: "uh, they already have a TV.."

    me: uh, they already have a tv that plays netflix???? "they" sure are cutting edge!

     

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  39.  
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    4-80-sicks, Jan 3rd, 2008 @ 7:40pm

    "wtf who wants another box"
    Sorry, I misunderstood what you meant by that...I did not realize that "box" was slang for "television set." Can you imagine why?

     

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  40.  
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    Twinrova, Jan 4th, 2008 @ 4:04am

    Netflix + Tivo (cable) = success!

    I'm wondering why Netflix would have a box created instead of working with companies who already have boxes out there. It wouldn't be difficult for these boxes to download from Netflix's online server.

    That's where Netflix should go. Of course, I don't think cable companies would be happy to offer this service (unless they bend consumers over to have them pay for it in addition to the Netflix fees).

    But it would be a start.

    Even if cable/Tivo says no, there is always a chance Microsoft would say "Yes" with its XBox platform.

    At any rate, the idea's going to fail. With so much stuff connected to my television already, I don't think I can even spare another port without having to buy yet another device to manage all the connections!

    Now, for those posters who think people are too stupid to connect their PCs to their televisions, it's time to shed some light on this.

    Consumers won't "connect" the two because of a matter of convenience. Who sits on a couch to type? In addition, many consumers still own those crappy SDTVs and the resolution of those things blow chunks compared to LCD.

    As a tech-savvy person myself, I've yet to connect the two because I see no reason to. What, to watch Netflix DVDs on my TV? Please, that's what my DVD player's for.

    I see the day when some company's going to merge the two devices, but until then, best leave them apart.

    Note: It is also NOT recommended to place your computer next to a CRT that has such a powerful magnet as to damage your computer drives. Yes, people still don't understand that computer data is still based on magnetic technology.

    Well, if you'll excuse me. It's time to find a movie "On Demand" from my cable company, which defeats the purpose of Netflix's set-top box.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    reynard, Jan 4th, 2008 @ 8:07am

    Re: meh

    Have you ever heard of paragraphs?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    nipsey russell, Jan 5th, 2008 @ 3:34pm

    Re:

    i hadnt wondered why....i was too busy wondering why you were such an a-hole about it.

    brought to you by the idiot box: euphemism for TV since 1968

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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