updated 10:20 am EST, Mon January 14, 2008
Netflix Watch Instantly
Netflix has made official the expansion of its Watch Instantly program for movies to remove most of the restrictions, significantly increasing the company's influence in online movie rentals. Subscribers to all but the company's base $5 monthly plan can now watch as many movies online as they like from their PCs without an additional fee. Although not all movies qualify for the feature, roughly 6,000 titles are playable through the service. Previously, subscribers were not subject to additional charges but could only watch up to 17 hours of movies using Watch Instantly instead of DVD.
The announcement is timed just ahead of Apple's Macworld San Francisco keynote and places Netflix in direct competition with an anticipated iTunes movie rental system that is so far predicted to offer a different business model altogether from Netflix, choosing traditional per-movie rentals instead at $4 for a 24-hour period. The Netflix system is heavily dependent on Windows Media copy protection and is not transferrable to portable media players but is expected to step up competition yet again when Watch Instantly becomes available on an LG media hub, competing with a potential update to the Apple TV.