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.