The New Netflix Box and the Allure of Instant Movie Streaming

Edward Baig, USA Today's tech columnist, today reviews the new Netflix set top streaming video box the web DVD rental firm will soon be offering through manufacturer Roku. As Baig says, the box has some deficiencies but is already attractive enough to interest diehard Netflix subscribers (such as the MediaLog!).

Pros: pretty darn good streaming quality (although not yet in HD), relative ease of use for the interface (although selections must still be queued up on the website using a browser on a PC), mostly problem-free WiFi capability, no additional charge for streaming movies and TV shows (beyond the box's $100 cost and the monthly Netflix subscription fee). Cons: minor technical glitches (which will probably decrease and will never completely disappear), absence of cool DVD extras that most fans have come to expect, and, for now, a limited (and, according to Baig, "eclectic") selection of available movies and TV shows (which, for now, does not include new releases at the same time they're put out on disc).

I think the "for now" part regarding the lack of DVD extras and limited selection is key. This is without question the direction that Netflix is looking at moving their business model towards, and it is arguably the way that the entire home video industry and viewing experience is going to go as well. Just as they were with the general dissemination of DVDs, Netflix looks to be prescient again in terms of making movies and TV shows available through a streaming set-top box and anticipating that this is how viewers are going to want to access and experience them. The selection of movies available through the Netflix box (which are the same ones available for its "Watch Now" feature on computers) is only going to increase. Distributors, once they realize that this is the way the industry is going (which, granted, could take a while with them), will beg to strike deals of some kind for new releases. And where the movies go, the DVD extras will follow.

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