It shouldn’t really be that surprising to see a company like Netflix decide to get into the movie and TV-streaming business. Being intimately involved in the turmoil of the DVD rental business over the past two or three years — including regular beatings from a behemoth like Blockbuster — no doubt has a way of keeping you on your toes. But will streaming video to Netflix customers be enough to save the company from the dust heap of history?

Mike Arrington says he is taking back his recent criticisms of the company, and that the new service is “excellent” and “significant competition” for others in the same space. Colour me unconvinced. In fact, I would have to agree with Dave Winer (Ed: not again!) that it is lame.

The online video game is already crowded, and getting more so by the day. Google and YouTube are doing deals, and talking about others, with every major network on the planet. The Venice Project — the latest venture from Skype billionaires Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, which has been renamed Joost — is trying to reinvent television online, as are Brightcove and others. And Apple and Amazon are already in the movie-downloading business.

death_tv.jpg

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that the major movie studios are also in the movie-downloading business, but services like CinemaNow are such non-entities that they’re barely even on the radar, and likely never will be. And of course there is the magical world of BitTorrent, Bram Cohen’s peer-to-peer delivery service, and other outlets of questionable legality — including several that use the often overlooked (but still viable) Usenet system.

Into that mix comes Netflix, which definitely has a large mind-share when it comes to brand name. And I suppose that streaming a movie or TV show is arguably similar to renting one and having to give it back. But with the proliferation of alternatives, are people likely to settle for only being able to stream rather than save a movie? I doubt it.

Netflix customers (who pay $18 a month) apparently get 18 hours of viewing, or about eight movies. They can stop them, and only get charged for the minutes they used, but as far as I can tell you can’t restart them or pause them. In other words, it’s already less useful than your regular TV with a DVR attached, where you can pause and restart or even record. Netflix seems like a step backwards rather than forwards.

About the author

Mathew 2414 posts

I'm a Toronto-based former senior writer with Gigaom and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

11 Responses to “Is streaming Netflix TV good enough?”
  1. (my early winner for worst-named new company of 2007) and other attempts to go around the studios launch. If Hollywood moves fast enough and smart enough they can effectively cripple any illegal offerings from reaching the masses (but go read Mathew Ingram’s more skeptical thoughts on this).

  2. Matt Blame the studios for the silly restrictions on this content .The studios still refuse to offer DivX downloads where they could offer the DivX Burn to rent service and use the DivX new replaces old DRM model to control content .Microsoft DRM is broken and cracked .I dont understand why the Studios execs are still drinking the Microsoft Kool Aid when even Bill gates has come out and said recently that DRM in its current form doesn’t work

    Netflix had to make a tough decision just so they can be in the Video space.

    Also Starz paid the studios US 1 Billion for the exclusive rights to a unlimited movie service till 2012 .So Netflix and others have to come up with other alternatives when it comes to subscriptions .

  3. Good point, Matt — especially about the Starz deal. I bet the studios are regretting that one (if they’re smart, that is, which seems to still be up for debate). And you’re right about Microsoft’s DRM. Wasn’t it Bill himself who said that DRM was broken and advised users to “just rip it?”

  4. Mat heres a screencast from Hacking netflix that will answer some of your questions

    http://www.hackingnetflix.com/2007/01/demo_netflix_wa.html

    I think that Movie rental services like CinemaNow and Movielink (both owned by the studios by the way ) have lost rental battle after this salvo from Netflix

    The major Studios involvement in the two major download services is just another barrier to sucessfull entry into the online movie market ..

  5. Much like with YouTube it will be the customers who decide who wins this one.

    They have to come up with an alternative that can compete with piracy. DRM will always be cracked eventually. Give people something useful and gain enough mindshare are the only ways to compete.

  6. Thanks, Matt — and I would agree, Engtech.

  7. It would be interesting to find out how many people actually watch movies regularly on their PCs. If its streamed at current DVD quality to a Tivo like box to play back on my home TV then it would be useful.

  8. I guess you’ll need an Xbox 360 or a Slingbox then, SFGary.

  9. Netflix Moves Beyond the Disk…

    Netflix, the little DVD rental company that could, announced today that they’d offer a PC-based streaming version of their service (there’s already a video demo online).  It’s launching as a limited beta with a select number of users…

  10. Hey, you can pause or restart Netflix stream, no problem with that…

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