As predicted/expected (though not this quickly) Netflix is now offering a streaming-only subscription option in the United States. Is the company set to become the default streaming service in the U.S., with Google TV and the big networks needing this ready-made middle man?
Just a few days after CEO Reed Hastings described Netflix as “primarily a streaming company,” a new option for subscribers has been launched. Those who want to drop the DVD-by-mail portion of the service can now do so.
As originally noted by Engadget, Netflix has quietly changed the pricing of its plans slightly. The three cheapest tiers (offering unlimited streaming and one, two, and three DVDs at a time respectively) all now cost $1 more than they did previously. The rest have remained the same.
However, there is also a new Watch Instantly plan costing $7.99 which removes the option of receiving DVDs by mail entirely. This is very close to the amount Canadian subscribers pay for a similar service launched last month.
A Ready-Made Solution?
This opens up an intriguing scenario whereby Netflix becomes the default streaming service for the whole of the Web. And it ties in to the previous article here on WebTVWire about the U.S. TV networks blocking Google TV.
As Mark Cuban theorizes, while the networks are unwilling to allow their content to be streamed to the living room for free, they would likely be tempted if they were actually paid for the privilege.
Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ is already available via Google TV. Were the networks to start dealing with Netflix directly, offering their content for an upfront fee related to the number of subscribers accessing the content, then it could keep all parties happy. Including Google, which can lure customers in using the big network shows once more.
The only problem would be Hulu, as Hulu Plus would suddenly look like a very bad deal indeed.
I’ve long said Netflix has the potential to own this space, and offering a streaming-only subscription option is the first salvo in its war to make this a reality. If the networks came on board as well, and didn’t charge an absolute fortune for their content, then I’d suggest it’d game, set, and match to Netflix.
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