Last week Netflix began offering free streaming movies last week (named “Watch Now”). They’re rolling out the service to 250,000 members each month (I wasn’t one of them – if you were, post a comment and let me know what you think!) and are expecting to have it rolled out to all members by June 2007. I’ve read Gizmodo’s positive review but I have to admit it seems pretty worthless. Here’s why:
- The content is streamed not downloaded.
- Since the content is streamed, you can only watch the movies and (presumably) shows on your computer (are you kidding me?).
- No Mac support – the service supports only Windows XP w/SP2 or Vista with IE 6+.
- The content is in standard definition, only.
- The quality of the content can/will vary. Netflix determines the picture quality based on your internet connection and how much their servers are being slammed.
- To start, only 1,000 titles are available and according to Gizmodo, the selection is pretty poor.
- And, did I mention the movies can only be watched on your computer?
Now, for some of the good news:
- The service is free. You’ll be given a certain amount of hours you can watch – you get 1 hour for each dollar you pay per month. For example, if you’re on the $18/mo plan, you will get 18 hours of streaming per month.
- According to Gizmodo’s hands-on review, the streams start playing almost immediately and fast-forwarding/rewinding (which is done by dragging the control bar) worked rather quickly (within 3 – 7 seconds).
I applaud Netflix for doing something in preparation for, what they believe, the inevitable: the future of movies will be digital and via streaming or downloading. But, how many people will actually watch a TV show let alone a 2+ hour movie in front of their computers? Don’t they get that we want to watch our content in the living/media room?
Off the top of my head, we now have the following options for digital movies/shows: Apple (iTunes & AppleTV), Sony (internet-ready Bravia TVs), and Microsoft (Xbox 360 Video Marketplace and the just-announced Xbox 360 w/IPTV). The good news is that we have a lot of companies trying out different things to deliver digital video content. The bad news is that we have a bunch of different proprietary options. So, we’ll just have to wait a while for the market to sort itself out.
Currently, the most compelling option out there seems to be the AppleTV given iTunes’ large video selection….but, none of the iTunes shows are in HD and the AppleTV is only compatible with iTunes-purchased content. All this being said, I’ll still give the Watch Now service a try but if I had to pay for it – hell no!
Update: (2/7/2007) I noticed, yesterday, that I now have the “Watch Now” feature. I haven’t watched a movie but have glanced at the available titles and it’s pretty poor. In fact, I’m having a hard time finding a title that I would actually want to watch. When I have the chance to use this feature, I’ll post a review.
Update 2: (2/11/2007) #1 is no longer valid now that I’ve used the Watch Now service because the videos to not hiccup like traditional streaming videos. My review of Watch Now can be found here.