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The biggest hint about a possible deal came last week, when a survey Netflix had distributed to its members started popping up on blogs. The headline of the survey read “Now you can watch movies from Netflix instantly by using your existing Xbox Live account.” And then, the question: “If, as part of your Netflix membership you could instantly watch movies and TV episodes on your TV with your Xbox 360, how likely would you/anyone in your household be to do that?”
Um, totally. This may be a big money maker for the two uber-conglomerates, but here's what it means to me.
Netflix. I've been a Netflix fan ever since the last time Blockbuster screwed me. It was the last time they screwed me. Blockbuster, finally learning their lesson after getting their ass totally kicked by Netflix decided to follow the Netflix model with the added bonus that you can just go to the store to return your movie and pick up your next one.
Too little too late guys. I'm done with Blockbuster permanently.
Netflix decides to one-up them and allows you to stream select movies directly off their site to your PC. I love it! While my video card may suck dead frogs, It does have an S-Video out plug on the back. A few months ago I bought a nice long S-Video cable and plugged it into the big TV. Guess what? Streaming Netflix directly to the big TV now. Other than what I would consider a poor selection of movies (until recently anyway) It's great. The picture is not the best, hardly takes advantage of what the TV can do, but I can now browse for a movie on Netflix, load it, pop some popcorn, plop my fat ass down in the ugly orange chair and watch Escape from New York the same night. Folks, this is where the movie rental business is going. Most video stores are gone now, for the most part only Blockbuster is left. The days of running to the video store are over. Cable has On Demand (a step in the right direction, but not enough) and now Netflix has On Demand. Good, but still not quite there. Enter XBox.
XBox 360. I love my XBox, even if it costs more money than my children. I vent about Microsoft's pricing, but altogether it's a pretty great entertainment system so far. I tried my hand at buying a movie off the XBox marketplace over the weekend. I rented Meet the Robinsons and Stardust, both in hi definition. Each one cost me somewhere in the range of $5, which is actually still cheaper than Blockbuster. The movies loaded, ran in 1080i, and just simply freakin looked great. The Bad: took forever to load, even with a cable connection. I bought the movie, and about 3 hours later it was ready to play, even though it wasn't done downloading. Kudos on streaming it, but the wait still sucks. Three hours of "can we watch the movie yet?" I suppose there's not much that can be done about that. Yet. More Bad: costs too much and the DRM is too restrictive. After you buy the movie, you have 14 days to watch it, then the DRM expires, or it expires 24 hours after you first press "play." After reading these restrictions, my first reaction was "why?" When video stores first became popular, they had to have the movie back within a certain number of days so that they had stock to rent to other customers. Three to five days seems pretty reasonable, and kids love to watch movies over and over again. They never get tired of watching the same thing. XBox movie rentals seem to be following this model somewhat, if not more restrictive. My problem with it is this. It's a digital transfer. There's no stock to be returned before they can rent it to another customer. Why the severe time restriction? 24 hours? If they're hoping I'll pay for the same movie more than once they're going to be disappointed. After renting it the third time I could have bought the DVD. What they're actually encouraging me to do is not use their service for movie rentals. It just costs too much. On the other hand, DRM expiration dates means no late fees. Then again, so does Netflix, and they don't charge any extra for streaming the movies. It wouldn't cost Microsoft any extra to let me keep the movie for a month, and it doesn't make them any more money to not let me keep it for that long. Making happy customers makes money though.... Pay attention Microsoft!
So to summarize:
Netflix: No (extra) rental fees, big movie selection for streaming, poor resolution.
XBox: Awesome resoution, XBox Live Gold gets you jack here. Rental period is too short, and the rates are too high.
Here's what I'm hoping this partnership means. Prepare for overly optimistic dreams that will soon be crushed by corporate greed like so many ants caught by little little Billy during recess when nobody plays with him so he decides to go torture the insects by the tree.
I get the best of both worlds. Log into Netflix through the XBox, find a decent movie, download in High Definition, pop some popcorn, flop down in the ugly orange chair and enjoy. No extra cost. I've already got a Netflix membership and and XBox Live account. Fingers crossed......