Netflix has announced a deal with LG, the South Korean consumer electronics company, to create a Netflix-enabled box that lets people stream movies from the DVD service to their TVs.
Under the deal, LG would build a Netflix-abetted device -- likely a souped-up version of LG's current high-definition disc player, which sells for $799 -- that would allow people to navigate to Netflix to choose and create queues of movies. The films will stream in standard definition (about the quality of a DVD).
Netflix currently features about 6,000 movies on its Watch Instantly site, which lets you stream movies to your computer (the movies are free with a Netflix subscription. Netflix stocks 90,000 DVD titles). It expects to expand its online library; it hasn't said how much it'll charge for movies through the LG box. LG, Netflix says, will be the first of many consumer electronics firms to carry the Netflix service.
So yet another company slips a toe into the murky pond of online rentals.
With Apple moving to offer rentals through the iTunes store -- movies that people can watch on their Apple TV set-top boxes -- and with several other start-ups also coming up with rent-online schemes, you'll soon find it drop-dead simple to get movies anytime you want.
But will you do it? And which service will you use? Like the online market for legal music, the online rental business isn't going to take off until a company finds the right combination of price and technology. Can Netflix beat Apple? Can Apple repeat its music success with movie rentals? Will a start-up company take the market?
I'll go with the first company that gives me a wide selection -- tens of thousands, at least -- with a cheap per-movie price (less than $3 each), and for a reasonable rental period and terms (don't force me to watch the whole film in 24 hours, for instance). Who'll do it?