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Netflix To Offer Streaming-Only Service Plans 151

Posted by timothy
from the is-your-connection-that-good dept.
MojoKid writes "Debates are raging as to what the future of movie distribution will look like. There are those who claim that physical discs, like DVDs, Blu-ray, and whatever format will eventually supplant Blu-ray, will always deliver a superior viewing experience versus anything that will be available via streaming. Pundits on the other side of the debate say that as broadband's footprint continues to expand, quality is improving. Interestingly, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is siding firmly with the latter camp, and it would even appear that Netflix is gearing up to move all of its eggs from the mail-distribution basket to the online streaming basket. Hastings indicated that perhaps as soon as later this year or sometime in 2010, Netflix might start offering online-streaming-only subscription plans beyond just its current Starz plan."
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Netflix To Offer Streaming-Only Service Plans

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  • ok (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Starteck81 (917280) on Saturday February 21, 2009 @03:30PM (#26942735)
    I think that's a great idea but they need to get a much larger part of their DVD library avilable on the streaming side before that will become popular.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I don't remember where I saw it - probably somewhere when I was researching the Roku player - but there was something about the reason NetFlix didn't have the newest releases was due to noncompete in their contracts. The DVD/studio people want time to market the DVDs to consumers.

      With pay per view and DVD rentals, there is apparently a payment made that keeps them happy. I don't know if that is currently true with the stuff NetFlix streams. What they offer on streaming might be pretty similar to what is
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      >>>I think that's a great idea

      I don't. My internet connection only offers 0.8 megabit/s quality, while Bluray averages ~40 megabit/s, Clearly the physical option offers the best picture quality, and also the cheapest option ($180/year for internet versus $0 to have amazon.com deliver the discs to me). Plus the convenience of owning the TV show or movie for multiple viewings.

      • BlueRay only requires 40 megabits/sec if you're using the old, outdated MPEG2 codec.

        More modern codecs can give you that level of quality in anywhere from 1.5-3.0 megabits/sec. DVD quality can probably fit into a 768 kbit/sec stream, maybe as low as 600 kbit/sec.
    • I watch a good amount of anime and foreign movies which are awful for me to watch online because they are dubbed or if they are not I don't always want the hardcoded subtitles (try to watch a movie with a different version of the dialog popping up before the actor speak).

      I would not say I'm the typical user (US person [wikipedia.org] but not citizen) but the better soundtracks and better choice of soundtrack is one of the main reasons I still keep my 3 disk subscription.

      The library need to be improved of course, but they a

    • Don't get me wrong, it would be nice if Netflix streamed all movies ever known to mankind... but I humbly disagree. To me, the main competitors to Netflix streaming are pay-per-view, HBO, Showtime, etc. A limited selection of movies that can be played on demand for ~$8/month beats the hell out of (and is cheaper than) premium cable channels and pay-per-view.
      • Yes, but Netflix's competitors all offer a large percentage of recent popular/blockbuster movies. Netflix online library, on the other hand, gives you random foreign, indie, and old films with a smattering of contemporary Hollywood B-list fare. No e.g. Dark Knight or Harry Potter.

        Don't get me wrong, I certainly enjoy Netflix's hodgepodge assortment of online content. But for Joe Sixpack, they've got a ways to go to replace DVDs.

    • No kidding. I have mostly TV shows on my queue - I believe that currently something like 8 out of 110 discs in my queue is available for instant viewing. Which doesn't actually matter, since it still doesn't work on Macs. I think it'll be a long time before they get to a point anywhere near dropping the DVD service.
  • "all their eggs" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 21, 2009 @03:32PM (#26942745)
    Offering a streaming-only option IN ADDITION TO their regular mail+streaming option isn't putting all their eggs in one basket. In fact, it's the opposite. They're offering their customers more diverse options.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by perlchild (582235)

      Exactly...

      In fact Netflix may just be showing us the future of content monetization.

      Offer, for a fee, media people are willing to pay for, not based on your technology choices, leave it, as much as possible, to them.

      Netflix has the distribution platform, check, the client base, check, the mindshare, check. They are waiting for the MPAA licenses etc... But as long as they give more freedom to the consumer(not necessarily for free) and keep it as much a "I gave you my money, I just want it to work" experien

  • by thered2001 (1257950) on Saturday February 21, 2009 @03:33PM (#26942761) Journal

    I've used the Netflix service and I'd have to say the quality is OK but not nearly good enough to replace DVDs. It's especially poor at the beginning of films. And while they have a lot of titles, there are still notable absences.

    In my experience, Fox TV's service is far better w/r/t quality. It frequently looks as good as DVDs.

    • If you manually set the bit-rate of the Netflix stream the quality will be better and more consistent though you may have to wait for it to buffer.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        How do you set the bit rate? I haven't seen it in the Roku menus. I have set my screen type which I am sure would affect bit rate. Is that what you mean or is this on a different player?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SlashdotOgre (739181)

      Have you only viewed it on a computer (which limits you to standard def), or have you actually used one of the third party devices that connect to HDTV's and support HD streams? I have both an Xbox 360 and a Tivo Series 3, they each support Netflix's streaming service in HD, and they both look fantastic. Now not everything is in HD, but at least most new TV series (Heroes, The Office, etc.) are all supported. Even non-HD stuff looks pretty good, although again that may just be due to the Tivo or Xbox 360

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I have the Roku player and pipe it into a Sony HDTV. It looks beautiful on most Netflix offerings.

        Even with the HD offerings, though, the quality isn't as good as a DVD in my upconverting DVD player but it is better than non-digital cable or broadcast.

        I love my Roku player and it's probably the best $100 I've spend on entertainment. I've also been watching the various TV series (Star Trek is in HD too), lots of documentaries (History Channel, PBS, etc) and some movies. It is certainly easily watchable
      • by Tintivilus (88810)

        I also signed up for the 1-DVD plan just for access to the streaming library via my Tivo HD. When it works, it looks pretty good... but maybe 20% of the titles I've tried to watch have *horrible* problems. I don't mean "zomg it's not HD" sort of problems, but things like audio and video being out of sync by multiple seconds, or the video looks like an analog-scrambled premium channel.

        For DVDs they have a "Report a Problem" button right in your queue and respond very quickly to any issue, but streaming vid

    • Our house uses a combination of netflix (3 DVD's plus a lot of streaming) and hulu, which accesses most things that we would want. We pump that through the xbox 360 with playon and my LCD TV has a built in digital tuner. To be perfectly honest I have very little reason to have cable and the quality coming out of the xbox to the screen is as good as anything we used to get on cable (we don't need HD). I should say that HULU is better quality in most cases than Netflix, but both appear to be as good as the de
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Regarding not needing cable, I recently updated my Roku firmware and it mentioned that Amazon was going to also be streaming through the Roku and they were going to be streaming network TV as well.

        From the Roku "What's New" menu page:

        By now you've noticed our new Home screen. This screen will become your launching pad for a number of great new channels that will begin to appear on your player in early 2009. In addition to the hugely popular Netflix channel, you'll see new movie channels, TV channels,
    • You haven't tried the Roku box with the HD update. The quality is on par with 480p. Amazing.
      • The video is not on a quality level with a good upconverted DVD, and the sound is still only two channel. And it is bogs years behind some of the new BluRay players with interpolated deep color and DTS-MA audio.

        Not to mention that the catalog available does not compare. Ar the studios going to give up on physical DVD sales? Seems unlikely to me.

        Netflix may want to move to streaming exclusively, but I think that many of their customers will have differing ideas.

        Personally I think Netflix may be jimping the s

        • Well there's your problem. You care more about quality. I don't. I rarely pick Blu-ray when I have a choice (and Blu-ray player/disc sales seem to indicate I'm in the majority). I'd prefer more content cheaper than higher quality content. Ooooh, only two channel sound. So? I'll enjoy what Netflix can offer and get content they or Hulu don't have through other methods.
          • by socsoc (1116769)

            I'd prefer more content cheaper than higher quality content. Ooooh, only two channel sound. So?

            I'd say that you are definitely in the /. minority on that one, how's that AM radio treating you?

        • Netflix may want to move to streaming exclusively, but I think that many of their customers will have differing ideas.

          Actually I think Netflix is more interested in augmenting their current plans with a streaming only option. The summary is, well, contradictory to say the least. The second to last sentence which states that "it would even appear...to move all of its eggs..." Is followed up by, "Hastings indicated that perhaps as soon as later this year or sometime in 2010, Netflix might start offering online-streaming-only subscription plans". To me this doesn't sound like they're ireally in a hurry to implement this, let

        • by tgibbs (83782)

          I use the streaming quite a bit. I'll wait for Blu-ray disks to arrive in the mail, but there are plenty of older titles available in DVD quality. The often-imperceptible improvement in quality is not worth waiting for mail delivery of the physical disk. Aside from the limited streaming catalog, the major negative is the unavailability of DVD extras.

          It is obvious that streaming is not going to completely replace physical disks in the short term, and there is no indication of Netflix discontinuing its physic

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      the fast foreward and rewind also suck massively. It's ok for a film you dont know about, but I still out anything I really want to watch in my que for home delivery.

  • Support more Systems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Saturday February 21, 2009 @03:34PM (#26942765)

    With Hulu letting us watch on our Linux boxes, will Netflix move towards this as well if this is going to be their new distrubution model?

    I hope so.

    Playon does not help us.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iminplaya (723125)

      Hulu and several other media sites don't work outside the US, and finding an adequately responsive proxy is a bigger pain than I thought.

      • "Hulu and several other media sites don't work outside the US..."

        The irony I had the other day with the BBC is I got a message saying it couldn't play a particular media clip due to the country I was in. So no I wouldn't say it's a "US only" phenomenon.

        I also find this complaint interesting as in I rarely hear "[non-US] content is inaccessible in my country". Guess we've raised our standards from "It's so awful I'll not even torrent it" to "I'll watch it over what other countries produce. Further propagatin

        • by l2718 (514756)

          The BBC specifically is funded by taxing UK citizens who own TV sets. It thus makes sense for them to restrict some offering to the UK -- just to the paying customers, as it were.

          Hulu and such are funded by ads. The only reason they are US-only is the way distribution rights for movies are subdivided by the rights-holders (the movie studios). In other words, the "domestic" (US) and "international" (non-US) rights are usually sold separately. In particular, Hulu only has a license to stream to people in

    • by at_slashdot (674436) on Saturday February 21, 2009 @04:13PM (#26943085)

      Netflix doesn't have ads, Hulu has. I moved away from TV to Netflix exactly because of ads.

  • Maybe they should focus on making their software work on Firefox. I mean, hell, it works on XBox360. Now what could Xbox360 possibly have in common with Internet Explorer?
    • by mail2345 (1201389)
      The amount of users?
      Or perhaps the amount of "bonuses"/"punishments" that Microsoft gives to companies.
    • by Firethorn (177587)

      I've been running netflix on firefox without any problems; you just have to install the silverlight plugin

    • by stfvon007 (632997)

      It works fine on firefox, and has for about a month with the silverlight plugin. It may even be usable on linux soon when moonlight 2.0 comes out.

  • That is my ISP, need i say more?

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Apparently there is a solution to the Comcast problem. The solution is to call their business line. I just switched to them because my old ISP could not provide reliable service, and what I found out was that, at least in my area, all of the packet filtering and packet forging is restricted to "residential" accounts. I run my own mail server, and spent the first month pounding the connection with bittorrent. I would download Linux distros and then just delete them so that I could stress test the connect
  • Unwatchable (Score:3, Informative)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Saturday February 21, 2009 @03:42PM (#26942833) Homepage Journal

    Between the video quality and the quality of the selection, "watch instantly" is just about unwatchable.

    The visual quality doesn't even begin to compare to DVD. There's a huge gap to make up to even consider comparing it with Bluray.

    The question is, does a significant portion of the movie watching population care? It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

    -Peter

    • The video quality really depends on how the show/movie was filmed and your connection.

      When I watched Season 3 episodes of Heroes and my connection was at the peak the episodes were streaming HD and they looked good, not as good as over-the-air but nothing too shabby, but when I watched with a medium connection, the quality on the TV went down but was acceptable; not on the computer though very noticeable.

      • I'll concur with this.

        My (completely unscientific) observation was that Netflix HD streaming is about on par with a DVD. Because it presumably uses VBR encoding, some scenes are better than what you'd see on a DVD, and some are a bit worse.

        Overall, however, the quality's considerably better than what you'd see via a analogue SD broadcast, comparable to a DVD, but worse than a true 1080i HD broadcast. Given the convenience, this is "good enough" for me, especially considering that it's fairly easy to bump

    • Re:Unwatchable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Saturday February 21, 2009 @04:28PM (#26943245)

      The question is, does a significant portion of the movie watching population care? It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

      I consider this whole issue almost moot, since we already know how it will play out: streaming video will win.

      Selection: It's obvious why selection will be so much greater without having to carry huge inventories of discs.

      Image quality: again, it's only a matter of time. Online, software-based formats will have better quality since they can more easily evolve. For me this is already the case; since I haven't bought a blu-ray, the only way to get better-than-dvd quality is by downloading something in high-def and watching on a laptop. Bandwidth seems like a big-issue at the moment, but compared to the text-only Internet of the early 90's, we're already about 90% of the way there.

      So what is this whole discussion about? Whether supplanting discs with streaming will take two years vs. five years?

      • by ghjm (8918)

        Riddle me this, though: Why do people buy DVDs when nearly all of them are available through Netflix for less money? If buying DVDs is a financially worse option, why do so many people do it? For that matter, before Netflix, why did people ever buy DVDs rather than rent them from Blockbuster?

        The answer is: Because for emotional reasons they want ownership of the DVD. Renting or borrowing from Netflix is temporary. They want to put the DVD in their collection and have it always and forever available whenever

        • by timeOday (582209)

          for emotional reasons they want ownership of the DVD... How exactly are streaming services going to satisfy this?

          Probably by letting people save a copy for an additional fee, just as iTunes lets you burn to CD. There is no new ground to break here.

          • by leabre (304234)

            Actually, for me, one who likes to own DVD's, I'm okay to ditch the collection as long as I can stream it online. I've been aching for a way to pay some fee (I'd rather not pay-per-view), and have access to a complete inventory of content I can watch/stream anytime I want. To me, that is the same as having it on my shelf, albeit I'm at the mercy of my ISP and Net Nuetrality. I'm also at the mercy of the content provider to change their pricing structure and limit availability of certain content to which

    • The question is, does a significant portion of the movie watching population care?

      Judging by the number of HD televisions I've seen set to vertically stretch SD programming to fill the screen, I'm not to sure the general public will care.

  • "Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens...? They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on.... [W]hen you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts in... enormous amounts of material."
    -- United States Senate Commerce Committee Chairman

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday February 21, 2009 @03:46PM (#26942867)

    The real challenge is how do you give users the flexibility to watch multiple movies at the same time or watch without an active internet connection?

    BB advantage is that not only do you get videos by mail but you can return at stores for an instore rental plus 2x month I get free game/video rental coupons. As a result, BB is a better deal since I get about 2x the DVDs at a time, plus a large mail back catalog of stuff not in the store. As a result, I get the latest releases from the B&M and the older stuff by mail. BB has so far leveraged the online/ B&M model quite well with something NetFlix can't match. So for only a few bucks more than NetFlix I get a better deal.

    The challenge I see for NetFlix is dealing with the moves towards bandwidth caps - a movie a night is likely to rapidly push people to the cap; and they are likely to be mad at NetFlix, not their ISP. As a result, I see pressure form larger ISPs, at least, to pressure NetFlix in paying for bandwidth or working out a revenue split where NetFlix is bundled with the service.

    Of course, once WalMart buys NetFlix and RedBox all bets are off for BB. You read it here first.

    • Why would I be mad at Netflix because my ISP set too low bandwidth limits?

      • Why would I be mad at Netflix because my ISP set too low bandwidth limits?

        I think most internet users will see it as a content provider, not ISP issue. At any rate; they'll be faced with "pay an additional $25/month for higher caps" (about what it is in my area) or forgo NetFlix d/ls. My guess how that will play out?

        • I think most internet users will see it as a content provider, not ISP issue.

          I really doubt this. Back when I was using dial-up at my parents house (in 1997), my computer-illiterate father didn't blame our ISP when they charged us extra for going over our hourly limit... he blamed the folks in the house who pushed us over said limit.

          Also, your ISP has put a price tag on add'l bandwidth? Who's your provider?

          • I think most internet users will see it as a content provider, not ISP issue.

            I really doubt this. Back when I was using dial-up at my parents house (in 1997), my computer-illiterate father didn't blame our ISP when they charged us extra for going over our hourly limit... he blamed the folks in the house who pushed us over said limit.

            I think your comment illustrates my point - ISP limits will not be seen as an ISP issue but rather a content issue and thus limit the use and or adoption of high bandwidth using services such as videos. We currently have pretty much unlimited usage for a flat rate; but that's really because most users don't use a lot of bandwidth. I think ISP's will need to be clearer about caps and limits and the pricing of added use; but I think people will look at the pricing and decided movies are not worth an extra X

            • I think your comment illustrates my point - ISP limits will not be seen as an ISP issue but rather a content issue...

              That wasn't my point at all. My father knew that my ISP offered higher monthly limits for more cash. He also knew how much monthly usage he signed up for, and the rate for exceeding that usage.
              My point is that he didn't say "Oh, those damn web sites, why don't they make everything smaller so it downloads quicker?" He said "All right, family. If you want to spend more time on the Internet, you have to fork out the cash to do so." He didn't focus on the ISP or the content. He focused on the terms of the servi

              • I think your comment illustrates my point - ISP limits will not be seen as an ISP issue but rather a content issue...

                That wasn't my point at all. My father knew that my ISP offered higher monthly limits for more cash. He also knew how much monthly usage he signed up for, and the rate for exceeding that usage. My point is that he didn't say "Oh, those damn web sites, why don't they make everything smaller so it downloads quicker?" He said "All right, family. If you want to spend more time on the Internet, you have to fork out the cash to do so." He didn't focus on the ISP or the content. He focused on the terms of the service agreement that he entered into. Did it limit our usage of New Media? Yes. I don't see how you can point the finger at the content providers, though.

                Which is why I say that this is ultimately a content provider, not ISP, issue even though ISP's are the ones who will cap usage. If it slows the adoption of the services then the content providers will either have to find ways to either:

                Lessen the size of downloads; which for videos would result in some degradation of the quality; or,

                find a way to pay providers for the extra bandwidth.

                Why do I say pay providers rather than get users to pay for excess usage? Let's use Comcast's announced 250GB cap as an ex

    • by jcnnghm (538570)

      The challenge I see for NetFlix is dealing with the moves towards bandwidth caps - a movie a night is likely to rapidly push people to the cap; and they are likely to be mad at NetFlix, not their ISP. As a result, I see pressure form larger ISPs, at least, to pressure NetFlix in paying for bandwidth or working out a revenue split where NetFlix is bundled with the service.

      That's precisely why cable ISPs have been pursuing bandwidth caps so aggressively, and net neutrality is so vital.

      • by shmlco (594907)

        Net neutrality is about treating all of the bytes and protocols the same. Caps and pay-per-use are different animals entirely.

        And personally, I think ISPs should be able to shape traffic so that video streaming and VIOP have priority over email and http, which in turn is handled before unanttended background crap like torrents are delivered.

        • Net neutrality is about treating all of the bytes and protocols the same. Caps and pay-per-use are different animals entirely.

          And personally, I think ISPs should be able to shape traffic so that video streaming and VIOP have priority over email and http, which in turn is handled before unanttended background crap like torrents are delivered.

          Of course, if they can shape traffic (I'm no saying that's good or bad) then they can shape "preferred providers" preferentially; degrading service for companies that don't kick in some cash

          Now, if they could shape classes of traffic such as VOIP / video but had to do it on a non-preferential basis with the class then I'd say that is an idea worth exploring.

    • The challenge I see for NetFlix is dealing with the moves towards bandwidth caps - a movie a night is likely to rapidly push people to the cap;

      Online distribution is already widespread in other countries, and there doesn't seem to be a move towards "bandwidth" (volume) caps. Instead, providers actually seem to be competing for offering better QoS for streaming and downloading.

      The only volume caps companies seem to be implementing are caps on the top 0.1% of users, people who really use many orders of magni

      • The challenge I see for NetFlix is dealing with the moves towards bandwidth caps - a movie a night is likely to rapidly push people to the cap;

        Online distribution is already widespread in other countries, and there doesn't seem to be a move towards "bandwidth" (volume) caps. Instead, providers actually seem to be competing for offering better QoS for streaming and downloading.

        The only volume caps companies seem to be implementing are caps on the top 0.1% of users, people who really use many orders of magnitude more volume per month than the median user. That seems reasonable and shouldn't be a problem for Netflix.

        While a 150GB (ATT's trial cap) or 250GB (Comcast) currently applies to only a handful of users; as streaming and downloading become more popular more and more users will hit the caps. 150GB is less than 20 HD movies, for example. At $1/GB above the cap, a movie can run anywhere from a couple to eight dollars just to view it.

        I see providers in the US using caps to increase their revenue; which means people will use less content and things such as NetFlix's video download service will suffer as a result.

    • BB advantage is that not only do you get videos by mail but you can return at stores for an instore rental plus 2x month I get free game/video rental coupons. As a result, BB is a better deal since I get about 2x the DVDs at a time, plus a large mail back catalog of stuff not in the store.

      With the Netflix online offering, I'm watching 5x the number of movies I would normally watch. Netflix has not only replaced Blockbuster, it has also completely replaced TV. And since I'm on DSL, I have no risk of getting

      • And as it stands, Netflix doesn't censor movies like Blockbuster does, so I've been re-watching many of my favorite movies that I had watched during my Blockbuster days -- to see the parts that I've been missing.

        While I've heard a lot of people say BB censors, beyond not carrying certain movies (such as NC17) I've never seen any hard evidence that they force studios to edit films prior to carrying them.

        Now, studios may edit a movie with an eye towards will WalMart/BB et al carry it; but that's noting new - they've worried about what rating a movie will get before videotape.

        I'd be curious to her about verified examples of BB editing a film before carrying it; not just refusing to carry a certain rated film or carryi

  • Considering that he went on record in the end of the year shareholders meeting to say that in 5 yrs Netflix will be completely done with physical media of all types, I don't find this to be remotely surprising or even eyebrow raising.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday February 21, 2009 @03:58PM (#26942959)

    There are those who claim that physical discs like DVDs, Blu-ray, and whatever format will eventually supplant Blu-ray will always deliver a superior viewing experience versus anything that will be available via streaming

    While this is the argument that gets bandied about a lot, I don't believe it's actually the crux of the matter. But I think it's more accurate of the situation to frame it this way: For the majority of people, is the (overall) streaming experience good enough? Because for a lot of folks, convenience may be more important than a small uptick in quality.

    For a somewhat analogous situation, I look to my teenage daughter's friends and their music buying habits. They almost exclusively buy their music from iTunes, even though no one can really argue that an iTunes or iTunes Plus encoding is as good as a CD, and the costs are more or less equivalent. But the quality difference is quite small (subjectively speaking, of course), and the convenience factor is huge.

    There will always be some people for whom absolute quality trumps all else. The REAL question is, is this group large enough to sustain an ongoing market of manufacturing and selling physical media?

    • There will always be some people for whom absolute quality trumps all else. The REAL question is, is this group large enough to sustain an ongoing market of manufacturing and selling physical media?

      Actually, this isn't likely to be a serious question a few years from now the way things are going. In the short term streaming media may be lower quality than physical media, but I would be surprised if 5 years from now your average internet connection weren't fast enough to handle streaming high def video.

      At least unless all the FUD Comcast and the like are spreading about the internet collapsing is true, but I've never seen a shred of solid evidence for it.

      • Actually, this isn't likely to be a serious question a few years from now the way things are going. In the short term streaming media may be lower quality than physical media, but I would be surprised if 5 years from now your average internet connection weren't fast enough to handle streaming high def video.

        The last-mile physical wiring hasn't improved much over the last 10 years, and I doubt it will over the next 10. Fiber to the home ain't coming soon.

        Cable internet service started living up to its potential a few years back, they had horrible main-office problems before that which (in my experience) made DSL more attractive, at least until the telcos took it over. If you have cable internet service, you might expect to upgrade to 15 or 50Mbps in the next 5 years, depending on the quality of the wires t

        • Fiber to the home ain't coming soon.

          Strange, I was under the impression that I've had 15 mbps fiber to the home for the past three years. Verizon even kicked that up to 20 mbps a few months ago.

          • I've moved around a bit in the last 7 years, in my last 5 houses the options were
            • DSL or bad cable, 1998-2002
            • bad DSL (600kbps) only, 2002-3
            • DSL or cable, 2003
            • DSL or cable, 2004-6
            • cable only, 2006-present

            you can also always get satellite, but it's not even as good as bad DSL, and marginally more expensive.

            What cities have fiber to the home? (not just to the neighborhood node - which, admittedly, has improved actual service quite a bit.)

            • Your last move was actually around the time they started ramping up fiber installations in my area. I haven't really kept up with it nationwide, but here in the suberbs north of Dallas, Verizon began rolling out their fiber to the premises service (FiOS) a bit over three years ago. I think they're pretty much done now. When I moved in to my house in May of 2006, 15 mbps down / 2 mbps up was available for $45 a month, and 30 / 5 service could be had if I really wanted it. They've now bumped that up to 20

              • Cool, maybe there's hope after all. I've just gotten jaded after hearing all the fiber-to-the-home-hype that was running around in 1997-1998. It's still not near me today, nor most places I've lived, but they might actually achieve a decent rollout by 2020.

                In the end, fiber is so much better than twisted copper or co-ax, especially when it gets wet. All you really have to guard against is cutting it. And, of course, even if the node can't fill the pipe to the house, it's better to have the extra cap
        • The last-mile physical wiring hasn't improved much over the last 10 years, and I doubt it will over the next 10. Fiber to the home ain't coming soon.

          Eh? 10 years ago, I had the best DSL money could buy - 640 Kbps for $120/month. Today I have the best DSL money can buy - 20 Mbps for $60/month. I think a 30x improvement in a decade is pretty darn material :)! Although the copper to my house isn't different, Qwest has brought in fibre to the node, so that there's a much shorter loop between my house and my internet access.

          When we move over the summer, I'll have 50 Mbps cable.

          20 Mbps is PLENTY to delivery perfect 1080p quality. Really, 10-12 Mbps is enough

          • For my purposes, on a 42" 1080p screen viewed from 12' away, 2.5Mbps average (with peaks up to 7Mbps) is what I feel is "adequate". In a side by side with higher data rates you can notice the difference, but without the sharper reference, I'm not missing what's not there. Of course, I'm not enough of an audiophile to have more than 2 speakers (though they are pretty decent 6.5" units driven by an adequate amp), so I'm probably not on the picky end about the video, either. On the other end of the argumen
    • Well right now streaming quality stinks. It doesn't even include 5.1 sound and I get better resolution from my upscaling DVD player. And the catalog available is a small fraction of what is on physical media through Netflix.

      Plus how do I stream if I am on vacation somewhere, or in an airplane?

      Then of course there is the problem of DRM. What if the producer decides to withdraw the film from distribution? We have already seen this type of nonsense with George Lucas.

      Don't get me started with music downloads -

      • Plus how do I stream if I am on vacation somewhere, or in an airplane?

        I understand (and agree with) your point - but I'm assuming that alongside the widespread adoption of streaming will come the ability to purchase digital versions of movies, or some sort of "offline viewing" mode for exactly these situations - similar to how Google is working on offline viewing for mail and docs that are "in the cloud".

        Then of course there is the problem of DRM. What if the producer decides to withdraw the film from distribution? We have already seen this type of nonsense with George Lucas.

        Agreed, although I think this might be less of a problem with movies than with music, simply because (I suspect) most people will want to see a movie once and then never agai

    • by shmlco (594907)

      "...even though no one can really argue that an iTunes or iTunes Plus encoding is as good as a CD..."

      256kbps AAC? It's damned close. Besides, if you're walking around listening to music on an iPod or in a car ambient noise will pretty much kill any perceived differences in quality.

    • There will always be some people for whom absolute quality trumps all else. The REAL question is, is this group large enough to sustain an ongoing market of manufacturing and selling physical media?

      In the dying days of the vinyl record, there was a premium product, something like "Original Master Series" or whatever, they'd charge maybe a 50% markup for marginally better materials that, in my opinion, did deliver a product that was noticeably cleaner sounding and longer lasting. If you played your albums to destruction and then replaced them, they were actually a good value.

      Maybe one title in 100 was made available in the premium format, and even when the premium version was available, the regular

  • OK, business leaders and others have to back the right technology and/or business model, but things seem to me to be less clear-cut than the old 'what will kill DVD like it kiled VHS' debate.

    Things are less simple, with content available from a bewildering variety of sources, for an equally wide range of target devices. Streaming TV to your cell phone, DVD/Blueray for home via rental or mail, or streaming/download, low-res mp3 or music videos for the kids on PC/iPods/phone...whatever.

    So the question is per

    • Offer them as free and DRM free downloads with embedded video advertising that is pause-able but not skip-able. If it's free and can be played on everything and the advertising is minimal in proportion to the length of the content, then most people would be content with it, and only a small percentage would resort to ripping the ads out. Hell they could even offer a premium edition of the content for $1 a copy. At the same time they could also produce box sets of collectors editions and things that a por
      • by shmlco (594907)

        "... as free and DRM free downloads with embedded video advertising that is pause-able but not skip-able...."

        If they're going to be "pause-able but not skip-able" then they're also going to have to be DRM'ed in some fashion. You couldn't enforce the rule otherwise.

  • Considering they already exist and are format neutral, can somebody tell me why solid state media, particularly USB keys and such, aren't viewed as the next logical step in all this? Hell, they've already done it with ghostbusters [boingboing.net] supposedly, with DRM even. Why wouldn't blockbuster just load up your USB key with whatever movie you rented that night if your connectivity sucked enough to not download it? Why wouldn't you buy "The Rock" on a key if it was important enough for you to own it?

    I'm not saying it

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Cost for the media, in all likelihood. A pressed CD/DVD is on the order of pennies. A USB key with the same capacity is still like $10.

      What I would see is some sort of itunes style system with cached storage of the video. That way the user is paying for the storage of the stuff they want to cache. A $100 1TB drive should be able to store 100 not terribly compressed HD Movies, giving you a storage cost of $1 each.

      • no.. 2gb usb keys? fastest cheapest I easily found online sale price was 7.5 when purchased in quantites around a few hundred from a promo-imprinting company

        A large corp could easily generate 1000's of consistent usb keys for far less.

        you are correct, it's at least an order of magnatude, but it's also at least half of what you suggest.

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          2gb isn't really enough; DVDs are 4.7/8.5 depending on whether they're dual layer or not.

          Thus, you're stuck going to 8GB sticks, and those are still at least $10.

      • by Deagol (323173)

        This past holiday season, my local Wal Mart had an entire end-cap of 2GB (or was it 4GB) black Kingston DataTraveler sticks for $5/each. I'm sure in large enough quantity, distributing compressed movies in this fashion could be profitable.

        Imagine collections of hundreds of decent-quality movies on USB sticks (or, even better, mini-SD) fitting in a cigar box? I could see myself paying $2.50 to *maybe* $5 per film in this format, assuming the Netflix high-quality stream format (they weigh in at around 1000M

    • by symbolset (646467)

      Panasonic is working on a 64GB SDXC in the SD form factor. This would make a nice carry home from the supermarket format for HD video.

      Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of backup tapes.

  • Well I'm ready to jump onto [buffering...] this right away. I kid but at least with OTA, cable, or satellite I've never had that particular issue. I think online has a ways to go before it's a replacement.* At least with DVD's , Satellite, and OTA when the weather knocks out service, a generator fixes that.

    *There's also the quality issue. Buying a HDTV set but getting at most 720p content.

  • With several recent stories about bandwidth caps by several major ISPs and trials by others, I can see that being a problem. Say you watched a movie a day and the stream averaged about a gigabyte (just guessing), that would be 30 gigabytes a month, about half of the allowance I have seen mentioned for some ISPs. I can see you hitting your cap pretty quick.

    Currently I have nearly 100 movies, tv shows, documentaries, etc in my queue. Of those only 2 have the PLAY button beside them. They are going to have t
  • How are the HD quality for streaming? Can we download instead of streaming to avoid lags, skippings, artifacts, etc.? I know some ISPs (e.g., Comcast, TWC in some areas [probably everywhere eventually]) have caps so this streaming service would be useless if the downloads are huge.

  • "... That is the sound of inevitability."

    This is what I've been waiting for. If they can get this going with a good catalog (unlike what's available now), in HD (720p or 1080p, no interlacing for me, thanks; I'm a recovering Amiga user!), I'll be all over this. Getting a good HD catalog going is going to be a big 'if', I suspect. :(

  • I restarted my Netflix subscription a couple months ago so I'd have some Blu-ray discs for my LG BD-ROM drive. Unfortunately, out of the last 8 discs only 1 arrived. I only received a few discs in total, nearly all of them late. Twice Netflix received discs back marked "undeliverable" despite my living in the same condo for 12+ years and having no such trouble with Netflix delivery before. Complaints to US Mail didn't change anything. Returns to Netflix were reliable though. I gave up and shut down th

    • I had a similar experience with the mail part of my subscription. Unfortunately, the post office where I live has a well-earned reputation for being unreliable.

      I had DVDs arrive late, not at all, and had Netflix not receive DVDs back. I cancelled my account with Netflix so I could avoid having them cancel it for me due to too many lost DVDs.

      I contacted the postal inspectors to see if complaints would help and they seem to have. Eventually all of the DVDs made it to their destinations and I decided to

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