Netflix Preemptively Takes On Apple: Unlimited Online Movies

NetflixNetflix will be making a big announcement tomorrow, coincidentally one day before Apple will be making some [similar] big announcements of its own:

Starting Monday, January 14, 2008, Netflix subscribers will have unlimited access to movie viewing online. The company plans to do away with its quota/hours system it had in place before (viewing hours per month were based upon how much you paid for you mail-in DVD plan). The only group of Netflix subscribers to be left out of this unlimited plan: you who pay the minimum of $4.99 to rent just two DVDs per month.

Right now the Netflix online catalog consists of approximately 6,000 titles, which is still only a fraction of the 90,000 titles in the company’s DVD collection. But the number of movies available for online viewing is still on the rise and has doubled since the online service went live a year ago. And it’s still a bigger library than most other video-on-demand services available.

This news has even bigger potential when combined with the previous Netflix announcement of Netflix and LG marketing an LG-branded device (like a cable box) that will allow you to watch movies on your TV via Netflix streaming. The LG partnership is to be the “first of many” Netflix hopes to announce this year with makers of hardware devices, including videogame consoles.

Netflix’s news of unlimited movie watching comes just one day before Apple’s expected release of an iTunes movie rental service. The main advantage Apple will have is that its digital content will be viewable on iPods and iPhones along with computers. But so far, most consumers appear to prefer watching movies on their big-screen TVs. Apple already has a product, Apple TV, which syncs movies from your computer to your TV. But it has been met with some critism and is not without its limitations.

The Netflix unlimited plan may be more attractive than Apple’s expected $3.99 per movie plan, which will likely require movies to be downloaded and viewed within 24 hours of purchase. Whatever the case, more competition in this space is definitely a good thing.

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  • From my tech blog, posted Dec. 27th. Mostly about apple’s rentals, but is still relevant – as I feel that 3.99 is WAY to much for a rental, and netflix may have more of a success (even if not as sexy as apple) with their offering:

    So, this is 1/2 tech wish and 1/2 apple rumor (sorry for the rumor half). Rumor part: Apple to offer movie downloads as RENTALs You can read a Wall Street Journal article about it (HERE). Now, the good WISH part: WISH 1: Please, please, please let us pay $20 a month for unlimited rentals. Be the digital netflix and everyone will love it. If I have to pay 1.99 per rental (and especially if it’s more) I’ll use it occassionally, and apple would maybe make $100 off me during the year. BUT – if I could pay $20 a month for unlimited rentals, I’d sign up right away and apple would have $240 of my cash. No problem. WISH 2: Sync this to the freakin iPhone and iPodTouch. If I rent a movie, let me do it wirelessly via my iPhone too. Particularly if I’m paying 1.99 per rental (which is just a price I’ve made up – btw), I want iTunes to remember that I rented it on my desktop, and let me also download it to my handheld device/whatever without paying for it again (and vice versa). If you make iTunes remember where I stopped watching it on my machine, and then let me download it to my iPhone while I’m at the coffee shop & it remembers where I left off – well, hell, you’d almost have my faith in Apple won back over again.

  • Jason,

    I’m with you… But I’m not holding my breath. As sexy as Apple is, they often stop short of giving me exactly what I want.

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