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.