Netflix via TiVo? Cool. But Not Cool Enough.

So TiVo and Netflix are announcing that their longstanding, apparently-dormant plans to work together have amounted to something after all: Starting in early December, owners of TiVo boxes will be able to stream movies and TV shows from NetFlix, and the cost is included in their monthly Netflix subscription. That’s good news. But it’s also by no means a substitute for the primary way Netflix distributes content–which is, of course, by shipping out DVDs in little red envelopes via snail mail.

That’s because traditional Netflix offers more than a hundred thousand titles, while Netflix Watch Instantly includes only about a tenth as many. Netflix’s own promotion for the Internet-based service stresses that it offers a “separate, smaller” selection of content, and that it includes “very few” new releases. (When was the last time you heard any company use the word “few” when discussing the choice it offers?)

You can’t blame Netflix for the skimpy selection–Hollywood just remains incredibly backwards when it comes to licensing movie and TV content for Internet distribution. And even though some other purveyors of Net-based video have a lot more stuff than Netflix Watch Instantly, including new releases, nobody offers what you really want: A service as comprehensive as traditional Netflix that lets you watch everything instantly on every digital device you own.

After the jump, a quick look at some of the major competitors.

Amazon Video on Demand

What’s available? 40,000+ items including movies and TV episodes.
Where is it available? PCs and Macs, TiVo, streamable via media adapters and Xbox 360s, portable media centers, Sony Bravia Internet Link.
Is any of it in HD? No, not yet.
How much does it cost? All over the map, but movie rentals start at 99 cents and TV purchases are $1.99 (but with steep discounts for season purchases).
Random thoughts: Amazon’s obviously serious about video on demand. HD would be nice, though–and the range of pricing policies and different time windows for different rentals is kinda confusing.

Apple iTunes Store

What’s available? 30,000+ items including 2500+ movies and 30,000 TV episodes.
Where is it available? PCs and Macs, iPods, iPhones, Apple TV.
Is any of it in HD? Yep–600 movies and an unspecified number of TV episodes from all the major broadcast networks.
How much does it cost? TV purchases are $1.99; movie purchases start at $9.99; new movie rentals are $3.99 to rent ($4.99 for HD); older titles are $2.99 ($3.99 for HD).
Random thoughts: Steve Jobs may still claim that TV is a mere hobby for Apple, but the company’s done a good job of lining up content and has aggressively jumped into HD–and having a monopoly on distributing it to iPods and iPhones doesn’t hurt. It also comes as close as anyone to having easy-to-understand pricing and rental policies.

CinemaNow

What’s available? 2270 movies to purchase; 1199 movies to rent; 130 TV series to buy.
Where is it available? PCs, Archos and Samsung media players, HP MediaSmart devices, various set-top boxes. Can be burned to DVD with Qflix DVD burners.
Is any of it in HD? Yes, but only 69 episodes of TV series such as HDNet World Report and Roy Firestone Face2Face.
How much does it cost? Typically $9.99 to $19.99 to buy; $3.99 to rent; $8.99 to $14.99 to burn to DVD. $29.95 a month subscription plan features only titles from non-major studios and “mature” titles.
Random thoughts: CinemaNow was one of the first outfits to sell movies over the Internet, but it hasn’t changed much with the times.

Netflix Watch Instantly

What’s available: 10,000+ items including movies and TV shows.
Where is it available? PCs, Netflix Player by Roku, LG and Samsung Blu-Ray players; Mac and TiVo in the works.
Is any of it in HD? No, not yet.
How much does it cost? Included in the cost of a monthly Netflix subscription, starting at $8.99 a month (or $4.99 for a plan that includes only 2 hours of viewing).
Random thoughts: A complement to Netflix’s DVD rental biz rather than a standalone service, especially since it’s mostly older stuff rather than new releases–but a nifty one.

Movielink

What’s available? 5500 movies and TV episodes for purchase; 2300 to rent.
Where is it available?
Windows Vista and Media Center PCs; streamable to TVs via media adapters and Xbox 360; AT&T HomeZone set-top box.
Is any of it in HD?
A few TV documentaries.
How much does it cost? $
1.99 and up to buy; 99 cents and up to rent.
Random thoughts:
Like CinemaNow, a pioneer that’s fallen behind the times.

Vudu

What’s available? 10,000+ items including 6600+ movies and 51 TV series.
Where is it available? On Vudu’s box, which starts at $299.
Is any of it in HD? Yes, 634 items in HD and 119 in super high-res HDX.
How much does it cost? Rentals are 99 cents to $5.99; purchases are $4.99 to $24.99.
Random thoughts: This is the only service here that requires you to buy a fairly pricey dedicated box–albeit a nicely-designed box with a very slick remote–to do anything at all.

Anybody using any of these? Am I being too harsh when I say that they all fall short of plain old fashioned snail-mail Netflix? I’d love to hear your thoughts, pro or con.


6 comments

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  1. Todd October 30, 2008 at 1:41 pm #

    Directv is also offering content on demand via the internet. Although they don’t have an extensive offering over time it will be a nice supplement to what is on there linear lineup.

  2. mselmi October 30, 2008 at 2:55 pm #

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  3. The Windows Fix October 31, 2008 at 10:00 am #

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