Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Netflix streaming on Xbox?

Oh yeah. Coming this fall apparently. Now, this development doesn't matter so much to me because my PC and 360 are all hooked to the same 32" LCD monitor that sits in our living room... and thus I've been watching Netflix and Hulu streaming video on the big screen for ages. However, there are 12 million Xbox Live members compared to the pittance of people who have computers hooked to their TVs, so this can only mean good things for "on demand" online video, of which I'm #1 SUPERFAN.

Don't get too excited though:
There are a few catches, though. Microsoft touted the streaming service as free, but that’s not exactly true. First, you’ll need to be a Gold-level member of Xbox Live, which costs $50 a year. And you’ll need to be a Netflix member, obviously. Even then, only membership above the base Netflix plan of $4.99 will get you access to the streaming service.

What's more, you won’t get a crack at every piece of entertainment in Netflix’s 100,000-piece library. Subscribers to this streaming/Xbox Live service may only choose from a smaller subset of 10,000 movies and TV shows.

I can confirm, however, that among those 10,000 movies and TV shows are Clash of the Titans and all the seasons of Voltron. Pretty sweet. Honestly, while there are some good things on it, it's pretty easy to exhaust the selection and to find yourself wondering whether it's worth watching something fairly terrible. The absolute best thing is that every episode of Heroes is instantly available, and they've been doing a good job of adding new and not awful movies. My hope is that with the Xbox partnership the licensing deals will be much easier to make, and thus increase the selection to something more like Unbox... but without the Unbox price model ($0.99-$3.99 each individual "rental").

One thing to make clear is that your internet connection determines the video quality... 1 megabit per second is the minimum, and is only "standard definition" (TV quality)... 3 megabit per second is what you need for DVD quality.

UPDATE: Here are the official bitrates from the site(from a page that is only available to members).
High 1.6-2.2 or greater Mbps
Good 1.0-1.5 Mbps
Basic <1.0 Mbps
My regular DSL line rates as "high" and I wouldn't say it's DVD quality, but I see no explicit claim to that affect... so I'm sort of curious as to what it really ends up being. I guess I'll have to watch a movie to do some more research, darn.

UPDATE II: OK, it looks like Pan's Labyrinth was DVD quality or really close... it was widescreen at least. Justice League: New Frontiers was standard though, even though it's newer. They don't pixelate and stretch standard definition though at least... and probably the reason I thought they weren't capable of DVD quality was that I haven't watched many of the more, ah, "dramatic" offerings, as I'm more interested in Escape from New York and Once Upon a Time in China.