Netflix has launched a streaming-only subscription plan in the United States. The move, combined with recent streaming-media forays by the likes of Apple and Google, reinforces a paradigm shift that's clearly underway in how people view television content.
"We are now primarily a streaming-video company delivering a wide selection of TV shows and films over the Internet," Reed Hastings, Netflix co-founder and CEO, wrote in a Nov. 22 statement posted on his company's Website. "Today's action reflects the tremendous customer value we've injected into streaming from Netflix."
Netflix is also increasing the cost of its DVD-rental plans. Having either a single DVD or two DVDs out at a time will now cost $9.99 and $14.99 a month, respectively, representing a dollar increase for each plan. The price for having three DVDs out at a time will jump from $16.99 to $19.99. Plans for more DVDs out at a time will likewise jump; for example, the maximum eight-DVD plan will now cost $55.99, up from $47.99. Netflix has posted a full listing of new plan prices on its corporate blog.
Likewise, Apple recently launched its new Apple TV, which fits into the palm of a large hand, through which the company offers streaming rentals: $4.99 HD movies, the same day they appear on DVD, and 99-cent TV shows. Streaming Netflix content is another platform option. "It's never been a huge hit," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said about the device during a Sept. 1 event. "Neither has any competitive product."
But other companies think that could change. Google TV welds traditional television and Web content onto a single platform, with features such as streaming Netflix.
Hastings himself has commented on Apple's and Google's respective visions of television. "Long term, I'm very bullish," he said during the Web 2.0 Summit earlier in November. "Short term, both have product attributes that need to continue to be improved." His suggestions: that Apple TV open its platform to third-party developers, and Google TV work on refining both its performance and its price-point, which starts at $299 from Logitech Revue.
Some enterprising souls have used Apple, Netflix and other services to cut the cord on their traditional cable. However, it remains to be seen whether the proliferation of streaming services will drive a majority of former cable and satellite subscribers to change their content-viewing model. Another streaming competitor, Hulu, recently cut the price of its premium "Plus" service to $7.99, reflecting what it perceives as more competition in the space.