Netflix's New Downloads: Sealing the Coffin on Cable and Satellite Providers?

 |  Includes: CMCSA, NFLX, T
by: Thomas Hawk

Last June I wrote a shot post called, "Is No TV the Trend of the Future," after reading something about this over at aTypical Joe. I watch very little TV anymore myself and were it not for my wife (who watches more than I do), I would have canceled that $90 a month DirecTV (DTV) albatross that hangs around my neck months ago.

I watch very little TV anymore because I now live in a world with Zooomr and Flickr and YouTube and blogging and digital photography and Twitter and Digg and Techmeme and Pandora and Technorati and so many other interesting places where I'm hanging out and consuming content that is not offered to me by DirecTV. Call it the long tail, call it niche content. They created an awards night called the Vloggies last year. Etc. Etc.

But the truth is that while I can survive on niche content alone myself, most of the rest of the world can't. Heck, even I have to sometimes watch the Sopranos and Six Feet Under and essentially other TV that only HBO seems to be producing. I also like the occasional movie. I finally got around to seeing Million Dollar Baby and Brokeback Mountain this month. Two movies I'd heartily recommend.

Filling the Instant Gratification Void

Which is where Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) may be coming in to fill the void and eventually give people the tool that they need to shut down that monthly cash outflow going to the cable or satellite providers once and for all. By announcing instant streaming movies (combined with their already great mail DVD service), Netflix is filling a void with our need for the instant gratification of content. Just like TV. Turn it on. Turn it off. Now.

It only works on a PC, of course, and relies on Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows DRM... but then again, isn't it convenient that all those XBoxes already in your living room can stream this content from, yep, you guessed it, a new Vista Media Center PC in your den. You know you are going to break down and buy one eventually.

So although this "No TV" trend of the future thought is still incubating, you have to ask yourself if with this kind of service from Netflix, combined with better filtered and recommended YouTube clips etc. from services like CozmoTV, combined with an easier path for niche content to make it to your living room through your XBox360, combined with rich free OTA network HDTV signals that your Media Center PC in the den is recording, with all this, do you really need Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) or DirecTV in your life anymore?

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) seems to be left out in the cold here on this one, at least for now. Mac users eventually get their turn too, though, as we've seen with the announcement of the *finally* it's here release of TiVo2Go for the Mac recently. I'm not sure if Parallels will work or not with this service for the Mac user, which could be another option. It still needs to make it to your TV though, and I guess that's where the $299 iTV comes in. Of course Jobs would rather sell you his movie downloads than have you use Netflix's, or maybe he doesn't care, and like the iPod, the downloads are really meaningless and it's all about the hardware.

Unanswered Questions

There are things that I do not know yet about this new offering from Netflix to determine whether it's any good or not. The number one thing, of course, is the quality of the streaming movies. I'm surprised that in an entire article about this new service, the New York Times did not think it necessary to talk about the quality of the streaming video. Is it high def? Almost high def? 720p? remote_tvOr is it the same weak sauce standard def content that MovieLink and CinemaNow have been peddling?

Davis Freeberg, my trusty sidekick with a TV fetish and a bad gambling habit, loves his Netflix. He's a power user, and he recently worried out loud about the fact that the post office was going to be closed to recognize the passing of former President Gerald Ford, because of what that might mean about getting his movies. He also mentioned that it would mean one more day of profits for Netflix, and every day counts. Once this thing launches I worry that he may never leave his apartment at all, for real this time. At least it's limited to 18 hours a month though to start. Somehow I imagine Davis will be putting this one to the test.

Check out a demo of the new Netflix service over at the best Netflix blog on the internet, Mike K's Hacking Netflix.

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