Netflix Online Viewing: First Impressions

I can now access the new Netflix “Watch Now” features.  This program lets you watch movies on your computer without having to wait for them in the mail.  The standard plan is limited to 18 hours of movies per month.  You can watch parts of movies, and as many movies as you want, as long as you don’t go over the time allowed.  I’ve played around with the service for a few minutes, and watched about an hour of video so far.  The short review: it works, but has plenty of room for improvement.

On my broadband connection (which appears to run a little faster than 768 Kbps), I can only access the “basic” quality video.  It doesn’t look bad, but it’s certainly not DVD quality.  As you’d expect, you can skip to any point in the movie easily and pause at will.  It currently only runs in IE (grrr), but hopefully they’ll fix that soon.  Their selection is pretty bad.  I haven’t browsed all of the movies, but from what I’ve seen, there are only a handful that I’m actually interested in watching.

All in all, it’s hard to complain when I’m getting extra features for the same price that I’ve been paying.  The service is pretty immature at this point, but I think it shows a lot of potential.  Selection is probably the biggest problem and will be the hardest to improve because it’ll require the cooperation of the studios.  After that, there needs to be a way to watch the movies on your TV in at least DVD quality if they want to attract the mainstream.  A deal with Tivo and other DVR manufactures would be huge.  Even without a 5 Mbps connection, you should be able to download movies overnight and watch them the next day.  I’m curious to see how this will turn out.  Will it flop, or become a huge success?

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