Jan 15

Marc Hedlund

Marc Hedlund

Netflix "Watch Now"

I just noticed an AP article that says Netflix is launching "Watch Now," a way for you to watch movies delivered over the Internet:

After accepting a computer applet that takes less than a minute to install, subscribers will be able to watch anywhere from six hours to 48 hours of material per month on an Internet streaming service that is supposed to prevent piracy.
The allotted viewing time will be tied to how much customers already pay for their DVD rentals. Under Netflix's most popular $17.99 monthly package, subscribers will receive 18 hours of Internet viewing time.
The company has budgeted about $40 million this year to expand its data centers and cover the licensing fees for the roughly 1,000 movies and TV shows that will be initially available for online delivery.
Netflix's DVD library, by comparison, spans more than 70,000 titles, one of the main reasons why the mail is expected to remain the preferred delivery option for most subscribers.

This seems like a decent start, but it feels like Netflix has lost the initiative to Apple on this. I am happy to see a competitor to iTunes, especially one from a company that seems more credible to me [strike that, see below]. Two weeks ago, though, I could imagine people being really excited about this, but now it feels like a response, and a weaker one. Gote.

Update: From an article on the topic in the New York Times:

The service, which will be introduced over six months, works only on recent versions of Windows and Internet Explorer.


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Comments: 10

  Devon [01.15.07 10:37 PM]

Did I read this wrong? How inept does one have to be, to make an applet that can only in IE on Windows? I honestly can't fathom the amount of skill and effort and time it takes to avoid making it work out-of-the-box in any browser.

  Devon [01.15.07 10:39 PM]

(oops, pressed post instead of preview) When I say "any browser", I mean any one that can display an applet, shockwave, or flash file. I know Lynx wouldn't work for it. But com'on, how much effort did they spend to find a way to get it to not work on Safari, Opera, or Firefox? You can't actually do that by accident.

  Scot [01.16.07 02:44 AM]

I'm not surprised it's Windows with a recent version of IE only - every Video On Demand to PC service I've seen (except iTunes) is Windows only. If you're a Mac user you're stuck with iTunes, and Linux users are completely out in the cold.

I'm surprised Real aren't trying to compete here. It seems like every VOD site has a FAQ that contains an apology to Mac users (usually with some vague promise of trying to include them in the future), so there must be a market for cross-platform "protected" content. If Real aren't going to try, then you would think there would be at least one startup out there that would.

  Zach [01.16.07 05:42 AM]

The focus on a single platform is almost certainly because of the need to incorporate strong DRM, without which the service would never get the necessary licensing from the big studio content providers. I'm not excusing the platform restriction, just pointing out the most likely technical explanation.

  Dan [01.16.07 02:42 PM]

Um yea...itunes is heavily favored to work with the fact this is IE only is something called market research 80%+ of the market is using IE so hit that market first. Get the rest later

  Marc Hedlund [01.16.07 02:51 PM]

Dan, I agree that the larger market uses IE overwhelmingly, but that just isn't so for early adopters, which I would think is that audience they'd want. Speaking as someone who just launched a new product, I'm seeing 14.6% IE, 69.3% Firefox, and 64.5% Windows, 31.5% Mac. Launching for 15% of the early adopter market (if my numbers are at all representative) seems just foolish to me.

I agree with Zach -- this is about DRM.

  johnd [07.26.07 03:47 PM]

has anyone watched abc and Lost or Greys Anatomy, or whatever?

That seems to be platform independent for the most part.

Why in the hell didn't Netflix do something like that? I can watch it on my mac or my pc.

  ap [07.30.07 12:13 AM]

I work for a media company as well, and we are having a problem launching games on the mac platform. It's all about the DRM and having it work on the mac platform.

  AHG [07.30.07 11:57 AM]

Funny - With an EyeTV adapter and a Netflix account, my 24" iMac is the primary entertainment screen in the house. We've been Netflix subscribers for 5+ years, but alas, they built their own player, so ports to OS X will be a long time coming.

  i.n.kazar [01.20.08 06:47 AM]

I changed the user agent string for FireFox on my Mac to report Vista/IE. That got me past the "your computer is not compatible" page and I thought I'd licked the problem. But, no, they actually coded their player to use Active X. I've written to customer service several times pointing out their shortsightedness (in terms of rising market share for Mac, maybe soon for Linux too -- also in terms of how many Windows users gave up on Internet Exploder in disgust and use FF instead). I suggested that Mac users get far less value for their money than PC users; therefore my monthly charge should be reduced, or they should just make Watch Now a value-added feature (at a price) for folks who wish to and who are equipped to use it.

True to Netflix's truly lousy customer service operations, never received even a "boo" in reply. Just about ready to cancel and move to Blockbuster, where I can order DVD's online, watch them, take them to the Blockbuster store (within walking distance) and swap 'em immediately for DVDs that are in-store. Not sure what edge Netflix feels they have over BB, and someone on the team that chose Active-X ought to be strung up & shot down, IMO.

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