One more perk for Netflix (NFLX) subscribers with Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360s: They’ll be able to watch a tiny selection of hi-def movies from Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” service, starting next month. Netflix will make 300 titles available in HD in addition to 12,000 titles offered in a standard resolution format.
It’s a nice step in the evolution of digital movie delivery and could be bad news for Microsoft’s gaming rival Sony (SNE) — and any other company that’s betting on Blu-ray as the standard for HD movies.
Netflix is not the first company to offer digital movies in HD. Apple, for example, rents HD movies for $4-$5 each via iTunes. And the cable industry already has a big lead in streaming HD — Comcast, for example, has 1,000 HD on-demand titles, including TV shows. But Netflix’s streaming service is cheap — as low as $9 per month.
What we don’t know:
- Whether HD streaming (or any streaming, we suppose) will eventually cost subscribers more money per month — the way Netflix is charging subscribers $1 extra a month if they want to rent hi-def Blu-ray movies.
- If Microsoft has an exclusive on HD streaming — or if/when this will work via some of Netflix’s other gadget partners, such as LG and Samsung, who sell Blu-ray players that can access Netflix streams. (Seems like it’ll work on all of them: Roku, which sells a $99 box that can access Netflix streams, says, “When Netflix releases HD content for Instant Watching, the Netflix Player by Roku will be ready.”)
- When people who access Netflix streams via a computer will be able to access HD content.
- When geeks like the guys at Boxee will have a version ready for Apple’s Apple TV set-top box.
Either way, another nice move by Netflix, whose subscription looks like a better value every day.
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