Netflix via TiVo

It looks like the rumors were true. Netflix and TiVo have officially announced (1, 2) their plans to partner.

The press release doesn’t really say much, but the speculation is that TiVo subscribers will be able have their Netflix movies delivered to them over a broadband connection instead of snail mail. I wonder if you’ll get the whole DVD including extras, alternate languages, and whatnot, or if it will just be the bare movie that is delivered.

Movies download a lot faster than they travel through the mail (when sent one at a time – a cargo ship loaded with hard drives is still the fastest way to send huge amounts of data). How will this impact Netflix subscriptions? Will the 3-out-at-a-time still be the base model? Instead of only being able to see about 20 movies per month, will you be able to watch 90 or more movies over TiVo? This could kill the cable movie channels.

It will also be interesting to see how all of this works out legally. I would think that as long as Netflix doesn’t let more than one TiVo box have access to a given DVD at a time, that they could argue that it’s fare use (IANAL). Unfortunately, the movie industry couldn’t care less about what’s fare. If Netflix and TiVo want to avoid years of lawsuits, I expect that they’ll cut deals with the major distributors, and therefore only mainstream movies will be available. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how this all works out.