Saturday, 20 January 2007 11:31

Netflix 'Watch Now' service delivers movies over the Internet

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In another blow to high-definition discs, Netflix has started offering a video-on-demand service designed to appeal to PC owners wanting instant movie gratification.

Although Netflix offers 70,000 movies in their catalogue which can be sent to you in the mail, watching movies on the Internet is the future of movie distribution, and to that end, Netflix have announced that 1,000 movie and TV titles are now available to rent and watch on your computer screen.

The movie download service is only to rent the movies, and isn’t yet a ‘download-to-own’ service, with Netflix ‘Chief Content Officer’ Ted Sarandos saying they have no plans to sell movies, although if this becomes popular, Netflix will certainly have to reconsider that statement.

Content is available from most major studios aside from Disney, which is still in negotiations. Smaller movie studios have also signed up to be part of the new Netflix offering.

The service is being rolled out over a six month period, with 1,000 movies and TV shows available now, and many more to come. A small ‘browser applet’ lets you watch the movies as they are being downloaded to your PC, no doubt with some kind of buffer to ensure smooth viewing.

Naturally, a broadband connection will be essential, with the instant viewing option requiring at least 1Mb connection, although a 3Mb connection is recommended. Apparently the video quality scales to the speed of your connection, so the faster your broadband, the higher quality the picture you’ll see.

The applet only needs to be downloaded once and takes only 60 seconds to download. Once you click on the show you want to watch, the video is supposed to start within 10 to 15 seconds.

Thankfully, you can easily stop and pause the movie so you can answer phone calls, or calls of nature, as you can with any standard DVD player.

Depending on your subscription level, you’ll be eligible to watch from six to 48 hours of video per month, with rates starting at US $5.99 per month.

According to The Register, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings CEO said: "While mainstream consumer adoption of online movie watching will take a number of years, due to content and technology hurdles, the time is right for Netflix to take the first step. Over the coming years we'll expand our selection of films, and we'll work to get to every internet-connected screen, from cell phones to PCs to plasma screens. The PC screen is the best internet-connected screen today, so we are starting there. "


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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