The nifty Netflix deal with Korea's LG Electronics to bring online video to your TV screen is getting a bunch of attention. The idea is to market an LG-branded wireless device beginning later this year that will allow movies to be delivered over the Internet instead of via clumsy on-demand systems that have never really caught on. Dan Frommer at Silicon Alley Insider has several key questions about the set-top box, such as cost (he figures LG couldn't charge more than $400, given the competition from Apple TV), the ability to run HD movies (not for a while), and how the rest of the market will respond (everyone from Amazon to the cable companies). Clearly, movie lovers are about to reach their long-awaited Nirvana: Being able to select from thousands of titles at a moment's notice - and at a modest subscription price.
For much of the morning, I've gotten a flavor of this future by plugging into Netflix's existing service that allows subscribers the option of accessing movies and television shows over the Internet on their PCs. Not all movies and TV shows in the Netflix library are available, but there are more than 6,000 to choose from - just download the necessary software and you're ready. So here I am at my desk on what's supposed to be a regular workday sneaking a few looks at "Close Encounters" ("Postcards from the Edge" is next). You can see where all this is headed: Being able to watch any of this stuff at any time on any device. It's what the writers are striking about and what the media companies are trying to harness. All of which will get a more extensive airing at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. Here's more from Frommer:
Netflix's current streaming service doesn't work on Macs, and to watch its Web movies on a TV -- the way most people still want to watch movies -- you need a PC in the living room. While the new LG device doesn't sound like it could be used to permanently "buy" movies, store them on a hard drive or recordable disc, or load them onto a portable device like an iPod, that might not matter. Netflix already has 7 million customers that subscribe to its DVDs-by-mail service; by giving away some free movie streaming to its customers, it could build an immediate market for the device. And most consumers haven't upgraded to either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray yet, so if Netflix and LG could cram all three technologies together in one affordable box, it could be an easy sell.