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The Netflix Player  (Source: Roku)
Netflix Player retails for $99.99 and adds no monthly fees for unlimited viewing of 10,000 program catalog

Despite the fact that the high definition format war has only recently ended with Blu-ray as the winner, many see any high definition format as being already on the way out along with standard DVDs. The future of movie delivery is digital downloads and even companies like Netflix who’s bread and butter is physical DVD rentals understands this fact.

To transform Netflix into a firm that has the seeds planted for future growth -- that will undoubtedly include digital rental delivery -- it has announced a new device that streams movies to a TV over an internet connection called The Netflix Player. The device is made by Roku and is cheap compared to other movie streaming devices from competitors at only $99.99 to purchase.

The box promises to work with any TV you have and offers RCA jacks, S-video, component video, HDMI and optical audio out. The movies and TV episodes streamed to the box can be sent over a broadband internet connection via an Ethernet jack or Wi-Fi.

Netflix says that the current library available for streaming to the device includes about 10,000 movies and TV episodes. Anyone subscribing to Netflix can watch as many of the available shows and movies as they want for no additional fees. The catch is that no brand new movies are available on the service.

For many, the tipping point of streaming rentals gaining popularity is when streaming new release films are available on the day the movie can be bought or rented on physical discs. Apple recently started offering same day as physical release streaming rentals over its competing Apple TV product.

The player from Roku isn’t the only Netflix player coming for consumers to choose from. The Associated Press reports that LG will be integrating the streaming service into an upcoming Blu-ray player that is supposed to be available in the second half of 2008. Two other unnamed consumer electronics companies are also working on Netflix TV boxes as well.

The one glaring difference currently between the Apple TV service and The Netflix Player from Roku is that the Roku box lacks high definition capabilities. Anyone used to watching programs and movies in HD knows it is very hard to go back to standard definition. Despite that fact, many Netflix subscribers will see great value in a $99.99 box that allows the streaming of movies and TV shows for no additional charge per month. 

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Nothing new
By EntreHoras on 5/21/2008 10:09:45 AM , Rating: 2
Anyone who has a Tivo has this feature thought Anyone who has Comcast has this feature through On Demand.

I don't see the benefit of going through Netfix.

RE: Nothing new
By rtrski on 5/21/2008 10:17:22 AM , Rating: 2
For those you pay per watch. With NF if you've already got a subsciption, you get the instant-watch unlimited for no added fee.

Granted it's all back-catalog stuff, except perhaps the TV episodes...

RE: Nothing new
By therealnickdanger on 5/21/2008 10:18:59 AM , Rating: 3
Anyone who has Comcast has this feature through On Demand.

Anyone with Comcast On Demand is also paying extra $$ for cable box rental, plus $$ for an upgraded "digital" cable package, plus $$ for actual content.

As a Comcast subscriber/slave, I can guarantee this is a better deal. Perhaps I'll reduce my cable package to basic and get this thing instead.

RE: Nothing new
By MrBlastman on 5/21/2008 10:27:41 AM , Rating: 4
I'm already doing that and have been for years. <^> to comcast :)

Basic cable every day + Netflix for movies all the time. Good combination. Fight the nickel and diming.

RE: Nothing new
By therealnickdanger on 5/21/2008 10:41:20 AM , Rating: 2
I would just like to see some industry consolidation first. I don't want to have my 360, cable box, Netflix box, Blockbuster box, AppleTV, etc...

Ultimately, I may just forego all of it and stick to what I know best:

Torrent my favorite TV shows --> stream via 360s from PC. Redbox and Live for movie rentals. Basic cable for local HD channels.

RE: Nothing new
By MrBlastman on 5/21/2008 10:48:47 AM , Rating: 2
Ya know, you can pick up your local HD channels with an antenna - and they come in far more clear than they will via Comcast or other digital cable providers.

RE: Nothing new
By therealnickdanger on 5/21/2008 12:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
Some do... Where I live I get half the channels really well OTA, but not the others, and I've tried lots of different antennae. Since the cable is already feeding into the rooms where I have TVs, may as well hook them up. You get all the local programming for free (including HD) just for having Comcast broadband. Besides, I'm not a real PQ-snob when it comes to broadcast television. The moderate compression doesn't bother me when watching The Office. The torrents I download are much worse.

RE: Nothing new
By tallcool1 on 5/21/2008 12:02:20 PM , Rating: 2
Cable is definately getting expensive. For that reason I do not subscribe to any of the movie channels like HBO, etc. A lot of the programs I watch are not on the basic channels, so that doesn't work for me (except for some sports like NFL). If I want to watch a movie, instead of paying a rental fee, I'd rather put that money towards just purchasing the DVD. I also do not see the appeal of spending $100 for a box that currently only streams 1/10 of Netflix's library and at a lower video quality than the original.

RE: Nothing new
By Moishe on 5/21/2008 10:43:57 AM , Rating: 2
The benefit if for new customers who want a cheap way to get into on demand movies.

It's also for existing customers who are already paying for the service but have no way to watch it. $99 is a good deal for this thing.

RE: Nothing new
By jhb116 on 5/21/2008 10:56:22 AM , Rating: 2
The benefit is competition and convergence.

I have Cox whose interfaces are probably similiar to Comcast. I hardly ever use the on-demand because it is really slow, offers limited content and the interface leaves much to be desired. And yes you do have to pay extra for the "good" stuff.

Also - XBox has started to offer this type of service as well. I have only tried navigating it once or twice, however, I have similiar complaints about its interface. Much of its content is also extra which limits my willingness to experiment with it.

I'd be interesting in seeing the interface for this device - if they make an "Apple" like breakthrough with the interface - Netflix has a better chance of going "mainstream" with this device.

By JackBurton on 5/21/2008 10:01:57 AM , Rating: 2
This will use up a valuable connection on my receiver. I'd rather Netflix just provide the service through the XBox 360 or PS3. For the people that don't have either of the consoles, this box will be fine though.

RE: Meh
By Schadenfroh on 5/21/2008 10:12:04 AM , Rating: 2
A PS3 disk that would allow me to watch NetFlix movies over it would be nice.

RE: Meh
By Mitch101 on 5/21/2008 10:13:03 AM , Rating: 2
I would too but that would require what the $279.00/$349.00 X-Box 360? This at $99.00 and offering 10,000 without any additional charge is a very good start.

I get something like this now with my DirectTV HD unit but those who cant get satellite. I think this is a pretty good alternative. Some Cable areas have something similar.

Now will comcast start bandwith limiting people on video streaming services too because I can see if they do this right it will replace torrents as being the majority of bandwidth because it would be easier for the average Joe to use this device instead.

RE: Meh
By SocrPlyr on 5/21/2008 10:16:39 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Meh
By SocrPlyr on 5/21/2008 10:17:38 AM , Rating: 2
You still need a computer w/ vista media center, but I just thought it should be a stop gap.

RE: Meh
By Mitch101 on 5/21/2008 10:28:09 AM , Rating: 3
Media center is really ahead of its time with the latest Mobo's coming with HDMI ports its only a matter of time before its more mainstream.

I run Vista Ultimate and a few days ago it popped up saying it detected my Direct TV HD-DVR and opened communication with the unit. I'm not sure what this means yet but a quick look at it appears I can stream content to my Direct TV HD-DVR because it shared out Photo's, Music, and movies to my DTV unit.

Tablet PC's kid of blow today but if they can make it work with Surface I'm betting everyone will be getting a Tablet PC.

These technologies are going in the right direction the question is when is that technologies time.

RE: Meh
By geeg on 5/21/2008 11:43:17 AM , Rating: 2
according to netflix website, netflix player does not need vista or does not store the videos on the computer. the computer is needed just to fill the list. than you can turn it off.

RE: Meh
By MrBlastman on 5/21/2008 10:26:00 AM , Rating: 2
If it weren't for the DRM, Netflix might be able to offer it through other browsers. I've been very disappointed that it won't work on my Wii's browser. :(

But, I still watch Netflix on my TV and surround sound - via an Optical Cable from my PC to my Stereo and a S-Video cable from my PC. Not a big deal really. Works pretty good.

Still... this box is intriguing. I wonder what OS it runs? Probably Windoze given the DRM but... the possibilities of hacking in to it to run your own apps on it perhaps draws my attention to it.

QQ when you're not gonna buy it anyway
By Baked on 5/21/2008 10:29:11 AM , Rating: 2
"But it's gonna take up a valuable connection on my TV"

Get a HDMI switch.

"But it doesn't have optical audio port"

It has HDMI.

"You can use comcast on demand"

It's crap and limited to the movie you have to pay. Clearly you don't have comcast cable.

"X360 or PS3"


RE: QQ when you're not gonna buy it anyway
By theflux on 5/21/2008 11:38:48 AM , Rating: 3
How about: "It isn't high definition in a world where everyone is moving to high-definition TVs?"

By OPR8R on 5/21/2008 1:38:51 PM , Rating: 2
"It isn't high definition in a world where everyone is moving to high-definition TVs?"

K, but there's no service that offers what Netflix does in HD.

Before you make a decision about this, I recommend you try it. I have an HTPC hooked up to my 46" LCD TV and stream Netflix (to which I already subscribe). I can tell you that even at 480p (DVD resolution) it looks fine. It's not HD but show me a service that'll allow you to stream HD content.

This is a big step in breaking consumers' addiction to disk media. Netflix has something like 8 million+ subscribers that almost all have access to the service already. If you believe Netflix, they will eventually add HD content and expand their library (which they have been doing). I'm afraid though that what we're seeing is the beginning of another war, AppleTV vs Netflix. I don't know if that's a war that Netflix can win, though I think their service is better.

I hope this idea catches on. I've always liked Netflix's attitude towards customer service. Their pricing is very reasonable and for what it is, it's good technology.

By ninjit on 5/21/2008 1:09:17 PM , Rating: 2
"But it doesn't have optical audio port"

It does have an optical audio port, so I'm guessing you meant coaxial SPDIF

A little limited...
By amanojaku on 5/21/2008 10:08:23 AM , Rating: 2
I noticed there's no coaxial S/PDIF (useful) or Display Port (not so useful yet.) These omissions won't limit the quality of the device since it's not capable of Hi-Def, but it'll be a pain for someone whose receiver has run out of coaxial inputs.

Speaking of HD, the Apple TV is only capable of 720p, but that's a lot better than the SDTV offered by Netflix and the player. If this is going to compete they need to up the resolution and audio quality.

That being said, as a Netflix customer I'm probably going to buy one considering the low price. You could argue that we should wait until the Hi-Def model, but then no company would believe consumers are serious about downloads as an alternative to discs.

RE: A little limited...
By Moishe on 5/21/2008 10:42:08 AM , Rating: 3
According to what I've read this box will be 5.1/HD ready with a firmware upgrade later.

$99 is a great deal for people who want Netflix but don't have a PC hooked up to their TV. This bridges that gap and lets Netflix target a new batch of people. Smart move on their part. The higher quality video and sound will come later.

"Not capable of HD..."???
By rtrski on 5/21/2008 10:16:04 AM , Rating: 3
I thought I read elsewhere the box itself is capable of HD. Netflix's streaming service doesn't currently offer instant view HD though, and with legacy connections a lot of TVs won't let you view it anyway. But there is an HDMI port after all....

RE: "Not capable of HD..."???
By kattanna on 5/22/2008 9:57:28 AM , Rating: 2
the FAQ for the product from the site itself it does in fact tell you its ready for HD when netflix chooses to stream it.

with the component and HDMI outputs, it should be able to do 1080i.

the only step requirement for this device, which i have already ordered, is that they say you should have a 4Mbps connection for optimum viewing of full 480p with 5.1 audio. if this had come out 3 months ago when i was still on my poor DSL, i would have had to pass.

Hmmm... interesting
By Basilisk on 5/21/2008 10:18:36 AM , Rating: 2
I haven't used the NetFlix download service (to a PC) for about three months, but this may deal with its main problem: every so often its pipe would starve and it would take around 30 seconds to resume the movie. In the process, it would suggest it was increasing compression to reduce the problem (and resolution).

Perhaps that's been fixed in the intervening months, but this box's protocol suggests the PC could soon have a store-and-view option; no pauses and no reduced resolution sounds good to me!

RE: Hmmm... interesting
By Denigrate on 5/21/2008 11:54:31 AM , Rating: 2
I use the Netflix instant viewing option pretty often and have not encountered the issues you describe. I've been watching Heroes both on my HTPC hooked up to a 37" LCD, and on laptops. The video quality is not the greatest, but it's good enough.

To me, this new product would be $99 wasted. Of course, the great unwashed masses who don't have a dedicated PC hooked up to their TV might actually get some use out of it.

By Azzr34l on 5/21/2008 1:56:17 PM , Rating: 1
Vista Media Center users already have a free plugin available that does this seamlessly from within Media Center. Not sure about other front-ends like Sage, MediaPortal, etc.

By AlphaVirus on 5/21/2008 2:31:20 PM , Rating: 2
But is an HTPC made directly for NetFlix? Of course you can do way more with an HTPC, but it is not a dedicate movie-on-demand style box.

Currently I have my PC connected to my TV, which is fine, but it would be nice to not have to power up a PC or PS3/360 everytime I want to watch movies.

Good deal
By AlphaVirus on 5/21/2008 12:30:06 PM , Rating: 2
I am going to order 1 this week. The netflix library is not perfect but it is so large that there will always be something for the wife to enjoy. I checked out the website and it also states
Get three cables – 6’ HDMI, 6’ Component Video and 6’ Optical Audio – for just $19.99 (typically more than $40 at retail).

That seems like a good deal in itself. Of course netflix costs a monthly fee, so I am sure they offset it a bit. Either that or they just found a really good way to make all 3 cables cheap for the consumer.

The only shipping choices are FedEx Ground ($15) and FedEx 2 Day ($30) which kind of blows. I don't mind paying $0 and waitind 5-7 business days.

But the Tax is listed at $0 so I guess that is fine.
$134.97 is the total price for everything. Plus the $5-15/month for service (depending on which subscription you have) = $60-180 a year. So for the price of 1-3 blu ray movies, you are sitting pretty on an on-demand library without having to deal with Comcast or TiVo.

Online for how long
By djc208 on 5/21/2008 2:09:04 PM , Rating: 2
[Puts on tinfoil hat]

So the conspiracy theorist in me can't help but see all these companies working on perfecting online distribution just in time for companies like Comcast to implement their pay-per-MB schemes to choke all our high speed connections back to trickles.

Sure the movie cost $3 to rent online but it cost $6 in bandwith to download.

I hope Netflix and it's competitors are working against these types of programs or this won't go far.

[removes tinfoil hat]

By VooDooAddict on 5/21/2008 7:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
I currently use:

Vongo on a PC + 360 Elite
- Plenty of "free" streaming movies and optional $$ of new releases in HD.

360 Elite + XBox Live
- Purchase TV Shows in HD at far better quality then Comcast HD.

NetFlix Streaming + HDMI + Laptop
- Older TV Series without paying Per episode (Started to work through NetFlix's Dr. Who catalog.)

Comcast HD On Demand
- Small catalog of movies ... but the first of my lot to get New Releases.

The verdicts:
Getting rid of Comcast HD. - Far to expensive for the little I use it.

Vongo + 360 - It works very well, and HD is at least as good as Comcast, but I'm finding the subscription less and less useful.

NetFlix + HDMI + Laptop - Pain to use without a dedicated MediaPC. I could see the Box being a really nice addition for folks who already use the service for the mailed disks.

360 + XBox Live - I'm hooked I love the quality. I know it's pricier then the other subscription options ... but it works so well and I've got a central repository for the shows I've bought.

Slow Net?
By JonnyDough on 5/21/2008 11:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
Now if only they had faster internet service to my area. I can't get cable out here in the country-side, and even if I could it isn't like I have a choice in which company I'd get. Everything is going online, which is great, but the problem is that the United States is lagging behind. Those of us not living in the city are pretty much left out in the cold. We can get internet service, but it's costly and slow. I sure as heck can't download Netflix movies. I'll stick to using their DVD service, which is awesome by the way.

Down for maintenance
By extechguy on 5/22/2008 3:00:48 AM , Rating: 1
Well, "unlimited" is a bit of a stretch. Annoyingly often, Netflix is "down for scheduled maintenance" at night when I'd like to watch something. People don't like their appliances or TVs to "go down" for 3 hours at a time. (As I type this, Netflix is currently down until 2:30 a.m. Pacific time.)

Looks like it's time for a new system architecture for Netflix - at least for on-line video.

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini
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