DVD rental service Netflix has released the first in a planned family of direct-to-TV streaming devices. Made by Roku, the $100 Netflix Player set-top box connects wired or wirelessly between your home broadband internet connection and a TV, instantly streaming one of the 10,000 available movies and TV shows you’ve added to your Netflix “Instant Queue”. There is no additional charge for accessing this service - your $8.95 and above monthly plan remains unchanged, and you can continue to receive DVDs through the mail as usual.
Netflix currently offers a stream-to-PC service, but this requires a Windows XP or Vista computer and Internet Exp lorer, and costs $19.99 a month, for which you can also rent up to three DVDs.
Both Netflix streaming plans (stream-to-PC and stream-to-TV) offer access to any of the available Netflix content. This compares very favourably with competing devices from Apple TV, Vudu, Microsoft Xbox Live Marketplace, and Amazon Unbox, all of which only offer a pay-per-view option that must be viewed within a short time after rental.
One thing you should consider before taking the Netflix-streaming plunge is available content; Netflix DVDs number around 100,000 movies and TV shows, while the streaming option is currently limited to around 10% of that number. Though it’s increasing all the time, content available to stream is still somewhat limited.
In the future, expect to see additional hardware members of the Netflix Player family. The company said in January that they were working with LG on a set-top box, and a DVD player with Netflix-streaming capability is also strongly rumoured to be in the works.
Things are heating up in the world of streaming movies on demand. This Roku product, if you’re content with the available Netflix content, offers a cost-effective solution that is easy both to setup and to use. Would you buy one? If not, what’s your preference?