Netflix Tries An 'Unlimited' Strategy For Movie Downloads

from the all-you-can-eat-with-6'-forks dept

Obviously trying to deflate a possible Apple announcement about movie rentals, Netflix has announced a service for unlimited movie downloads that lets its customers stream as many shows as they can watch to their PCs. Netflix has been testing this 'unlimited' offering for a few months with its new subscribers -- and it's not exactly surprising that Netflix would have to offer an all-you-can-eat plan at some point, given its existing DVD-based service plans. But Netflix is still playing with the term 'unlimited' in that the downloaded movies are streaming, so presumably, unlimited actually means something more like "up to 744 hours of video" in a month with 31 days (if you don't stop to sleep or eat).

More interestingly, though, is that this announcement places Netflix firmly in the movie downloads business. Mailing DVDs will clearly remain part of Netflix for quite some time due to the lack of broadband penetration for many US customers, but the increasing costs of shipping physical media will likely doom that business. So now the questions of how to handle the distribution of digital data will really become a mainstream issue -- and a serious business test for Netflix. Will the delivery of streaming movies be hampered by the likes of Comcast and ISPs who compete with their own movie downloading services? Does the iTunes pay-per-title model make more sense than a subscription plan? Netflix faces a number of large competitors, as well as pirating consumers. On the upside, however, there is also potential to expand internationally if Netflix doesn't rely on the USPS.

Netflix is trying a few different tactics to support downloading, but its real threats may be the copyright holders who could giveth and taketh away the shows and movies. With around 6,000 titles available for streaming from Netflix, that's only around a year of straight watching if you actually wanted to watch everything -- and didn't need to sleep.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    ChurchHatesTucker, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 7:10pm

    Streaming Sux

    I live in a major city, and I still hate streaming. If I buy (or rent) something, I want it to move with me. Got a couple minutes at work? Watch some of that movie. What, no broadband there? Shit out of luck, guy...

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

  2. identicon
    david, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 7:16pm

    Big Fan

    I've been a Netflix user for a while and I'm using their streaming service more and more. I especially like it when I'm in a hotel especially as Marriott is beginning to install connections that let you plug your laptop into their large flatscreen TVs. My worry is that the hotels will not like the competition with their own pay per view services.

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

  3. identicon
    Robert, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 7:21pm

    but first they should have . . .

    Forget unlimited, they should open the service up to non-windows system so Mac and Linux people can use it too. Geeks seem like they'd dive on this market the fastest, so them ignoring it is not very smart.

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

  4. identicon
    Danny, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 7:45pm

    traffic shaping?

    Also, will the cable companies traffic shape the Netflix model out of business? How big is a streamed movie and how many streamed movies a month would put one over the cable firms' non-public maximum bit count for downloading?

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 7:48pm

    Streaming isn't all bad

    Even in places with bad connectivity, thanks to buffers I have no issue with streaming. Oh no, I may have to wait up to 5 minutes before watching my 2 hour movie (typically broken into 30 min segments). Woe is me.

    Its free, just like TV, but unedited. Making it more valuable to me.

    Good going Netflix!

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

  6. identicon
    Julie, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 8:16pm

    I've used the Netflix movies on demand service for more than a year now, and I think it's fantastic. As I'm switching next week from DSL to cable, I sure hope Time Warner doesn't try to f-k up my connection, figuring that I must be streaming pirated movies.

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

  7. identicon
    Paul, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 8:31pm

    Re: but first they should have . . .

    I agree. I've been a Netflix member for a good while and use Linux so I am not able to use this feature. Really wish they would open it up. I have the bandwidth, but don't want to install windows just to watch a few movies here and there.

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

  8. identicon
    Traveling problems, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 9:28pm

    I travel all over the world and Netflix streaming downloads didn't work in Singapore, Japan, and Korea. Suckage! It purposely prevents you from viewing these because of the likelyhood of piracy. I canceled it after I tried in all 3 countries.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 10:24pm


    You canceled it because it didn't work in 3 countries?

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

  10. identicon
    4-80-sicks, Jan 14th, 2008 @ 10:49pm

    Re: Re: but first they should have . . .

    I agree. I've been a Netflix member for a good while and use Linux so I am not able to use this feature. Really wish they would open it up. I have the bandwidth, but don't want to install windows just to watch a few movies here and there.

    They probably don't see the value. *If* this service takes off, and *if* Linux penetrates the desktop market enough, maybe they'll do it then. I'd give it six years minimum, which kinda sucks a lot.

    There's also the issue of filetype. Netflix probably does not want to license an mpeg-2 decoder to include in their software so Linux users can use it, or bother working with a Free codec. A real shame for everybody except Microsoft.

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

  11. identicon
    August West, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 1:55am

    No thanks

    I've never watched a movie on my computer. Thats what the couch and "real" TV are for. Lord of the Rings on a 22" and computer speakers? Please

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 5:17am

    Re: No thanks

    You will find that its fairly easy to connect your computer to your TV. I've been doing it since i first got a computer.
    Windows is already set up to handle dual screens right out the box too, so theres no difficulty with software etc.

    hell i suppose you could even buy a cheap computer to sit by your tv so that you dont have to bother moving the one you have already.

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

  13. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 15th, 2008 @ 6:00am

    Re #11

    Not only can you hook your PC to your TV as post #12 suggested.
    But what kind of speakers do you use?
    The speakers hooked up to me PC are just as good as the ones hooked up to my TV.
    The sound out of both is completely clear and awesome.
    Although they are both 5.1 and I have yet to jump to 7.1 or 9.1 I do not really care. 5.1 suits everything I could need.
    Sorry to hear that your PC speakers suck so bad. You can get a nice 5.1 system for cheap. Try checking Newegg or something.

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

  14. identicon
    James, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 7:42am

    Good start

    Hiccups aside.. (and while I have no practical experience with NetFlix) this is good to see.

    Assuming that bandwidth is no issue, this could seem to work fairly well. Why buy a DVD, I can stream it anytime I want.. and how many times do you watch a movie after the first time anyways? (Yes, I'll concede a few rare favorites)

    Good job NetFlix and if there's anyway for me to stream from my PC through my TV using my XBOX 360 as a media extender I'll become a subscriber.

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

  15. identicon
    4-80-sicks, Jan 15th, 2008 @ 9:09am

    Echoing connect a computer to your "real" TV!

    Video card to AUX on the TV, soundcard to stereo receiver. It just makes sense when so much content lives on the computer these days. And if you think 22" is a pitifully small screen, I'm sure you can afford a small HTPC. You can also replace your CD and DVD players with this.

    If you don't have content on your computer it's another story I guess, but as computers get more powerful this will become more popular.

    I've ripped a lot of my CDs to my computer, when I finish that the DVDs are next, and eventually a coffee table touchscreen will be installed, and jukebox software to tie it all together. No more dealing with scratched discs or keeping hundreds of media cases on a shelf and organized. (I'll only have to worry about hard drive crashes :-) Back up your stuff!)

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

  16. identicon
    nipseyrussell, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    i like NF's offering, but besides increasing their selection, i have to say: GET CLOSE CAPTIONING!
    also, because of the way these movies play, i dont see any way to use my WMC remote control, so someone let me know if thats possible

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

  17. identicon
    SrgaRolow, Feb 25th, 2008 @ 10:10pm

    NetFlix and the watch now bit!

    Well I just got Netflix and really did want to try out the watch now Movie thing. Only to findit does not work with my
    Computer running Vista? It starts ok, looks like it is going to play the Movie. Then Zip..It stops and that is it....I have tryed about 10 times and get the same thing.... Lookslike Net Flix is going to go.. Block buster hearI came....Any one got any help for meon this???? Thanks..

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

  18. identicon
    Jake, Mar 19th, 2008 @ 10:33pm

    Netflix's "Unlimited Online Viewing" isn't Entirel

    Netflix's recent move to provide 'unlimited' online viewing would have been the coolest thing ever---if it weren't a lie and a rip off.

    That's right. After you watch your 17 hours of seamless streaming movies, it starts crashing your browser for you. So some folks are not actually GETTING the unlimited hours; false advertisement.

    Officially, they're getting unlimited, technically however, Netflix actually takes measures to prevent it.

    I have tracked this since the unlimited thing BEGAN.

    Consistently, and every month, after 17 hrs of watching seamlessly... it won't allow any more watching---it crashes browsers to actively prevent users from the promised 'Unlimited'.

    People should be outraged. Netflix was fine before this, after this, I can't trust them anymore.

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

  19. identicon
    Sarah, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:21pm

    Love Netlix streaming to my HDTV via my XBox 360

    I love Netflix! Finally someone is taking advantage of modern technology! No more sending packages back and forth. No more waiting for videos I want to see NOW.

    I simply hook up my Xbox 360 and get movies instantly. The XBox streams them directly to my HDTV. No complicated setups, nothing. Just hook the 360 to the internet and you are ready to start watching unlimited movies when YOU want to.

    The future is here and it's name is NETFLIX!!

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

  20. identicon
    Gabe, May 4th, 2010 @ 5:30pm


    If you want to see what I think about netflix go to my websites presention on homepage

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

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