Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the Netflix-360 deal

This Netflix-360 deal ain't all it's cracked up to be.

When I first heard its announcement during E3, I was excited. I love to watch movies, and I already stream movies through sites like Hulu. I've been using Blockbuster to rent movies by mail for many months, but I figured I'd gladly switch if I could watch more movies through Netflix via streaming or downloads.

Alas, there's a catch.

I've been trying Netflix for the past month to find out if they're really just as good as Blockbuster; to figure out if I want to switch. It turns out Netflix already allows members to stream movies if the membership plan includes it ($14 per month gives you unlimited streams, in addition to mail rentals).

The catch is only some movies are offered for streaming... and most of those movies suck. Oh, there are some real gems (like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three or The Riddle), but most are shoddy B-movies and stuff you'd probably never watch if it was offered any other way. Odds are, this is the same content that will be available to 360 users.

Screw it. Blockbuster still seems like the better deal to me. They've got an exclusivity deal with The Weinstein Company (Hannibal Rising, 1408, The Last Legion, The Forbidden Kingdom, etc). And they just added their own download program... which is both better and worse than Netflix streams. It's worse because Blockbuster doesn't offer a subscription add-on to download movies, as Netflix does; you have to pay to rent each download. But it's better in that you can purchase movies via download (good movies); and those are cheaper than DVDs, of course. As long as you have a big external hard drive, as I do, that's not a bad deal.

It seems to me that all forms of electronic media are gradually merging. The Netflix-360 deal is a step in that direction, but also shows how far we are from the ideal for now.


  1. I've been saying this since the deal was released, but the 360 fanboys wouldn't listen. I have a Roku box and use it to stream Netflix stuff, but I use it for old tv shows and stuff, not for watching movies.

    Also don't forget its all standard definition for now, and stereo audio. It's a nice perk if you're already a Netflix subscriber (which I am), but nothing to get crazy excited about.

    You might want to give PlayOn a look ( It'll stream Hulu to your 360 or PS3. I haven't tried it yet, though..

  2. Yeah, Pete, I had saw someone mention before that Netflix already offers streaming... it might have been you. What I hadn't read about before joining was the poor selection of movies available for streaming.

    I don't mind the standard definition, since I still have a standard def TV. I don't know, but I'd guess that most TV viewers still have only standard definition. But you're right that HD users might expect it in their rental downloads.

    Thanks for the link. I might have to try that.

  3. I don't mind SD when it comes to digital video, it still looks fine to me. I can "kinda" tell a difference when I watch an HD movie, but overall not enough to convince me to get a BluRay player and replace my DVD library.

    I was hoping the Netflix gig would be a good thing, and who knows, maybe the influx of 360 users will prompt them to put more content available. In the meantime, I'm fine with renting a movie from the XBMP though.

    I do use TVersity to stream to the 360 (considering turning my old Xbox into an XBMC for the bedroom too) but I haven't managed to figure out how to stream something like Hulu, so perhaps I'll give that PlayOn a lookover.

  4. WOW! I'll be honest, I pretty much have ignored Hulu and most other video sites because I can't stand watching video at the computer. PlayOn is awesome! No configuration, nothing. Just install it, and point the 360 and it's ready to rock 'n roll.

    Right now, PlayOn will only pull the SD versions, not the HD. In fact, the SD "seems" to not even be quite SD, it's a little worse at least from the few videos I've watched so far. I'm not sure if they'll be able to get HD working anyway, since you're already streaming the video from the 'net, then PlayOn has to transcode the video and stream the transcoded video to the 360 on the fly. That's a lot of CPU and network usage going on, and HD would dramatically increase that.

    But for now, PlayOn is a free beta and offers Hulu and other streaming sites that TVersity can't do (yet?) so they're both worth checking out if you're interested in streaming media to your 360/PS3.

  5. I was going to get this to check out TV shows, unfortunatly it did not have the ones I wanted. In the future this might be cool if they increase their selection, but for now I think I will be passing.

  6. IGN got some hands-on time with Netflix on the 360, and it's apparently even worse than I thought. Not only does the movie selection suck, but the service automatically forces a poor resolution on you for quick streaming.


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