Netflix working to changehow you watch movies. Again.

The New York Times recently ran a post about how Netflix is again changing the way we watch movies (also here is a shorter link in a). After changing movie rentals via DVDs by mail, Netflix is taking on video downloads via streaming which monitors time watched rather than time since downloads. It’s really clever, and it should have been obvious, but this beats the streaming video options from all the other providers I have seen.

Already, you can buy movies from iTunes, for example, but the selection is tiny (250 movies), and you pay about as much as you would for a DVD. CinemaNow and MovieLink offer online movie “rentals” for about $4. But again, the selection is fairly small, at least once you subtract the mind-boggling gigabytes of B movies – more like C or D movies – like “Addicted to Murder III: Bloodlust” and “Witchcraft XI: Sisters in Blood.” The copy protection is a bit overbearing, too. You can download a movie, all right, but it self-destructs 24 hours later.

All of these services permit you to start watching a movie after only a minute or so, before it’s been fully downloaded – but you can’t fast forward (or, in some cases, even rewind) until you’ve got the whole thing on your hard drive.

. . .

Once again, Netflix has rewritten the rules – this time, of the online movie-rental game. The company has done away with expiration dates, copy protection and multi-megabyte downloads. That’s because you don’t actually download any of Netflix’s movies; instead, they “stream” in real time from the Internet to your computer. (This advantage comes with a key disadvantage: you must be connected to the Internet. Wireless hot spots at airports and hotels are fair game, but movies can’t be carried around on a laptop.)

Netflix has also done away with per-movie fees – in fact, there are no additional fees for watching movies online at all. Instead, the Netflix service is free if you’re already a Netflix DVD-by-mail subscriber. When you log in to, you see a new tab called Watch Now. It opens what looks like a duplicate set of the company’s usual excellent movie-finding and movie-recommending tools, except that you now see two buttons beneath each movie’s icon: Rent and Play.

. . .

Even more startling: Your movie watching is measured by time, not by individual movie title or by individual viewing.

The hours of movie watching you get each month depends on which DVD-by-mail plan you have. You get one hour of online movies per dollar of your monthly fee. So if you pay $6 a month (for the one-DVD-at-a-time plan), you can watch six hours of movies online; if you pay $18 (for the three-DVD plan), you can gorge yourself on 18 hours of online movies. And so on.

See how simple that is? And really, shouldn’t somone have come up with this before now? I’m not saying I should have, mind you – I haven’t been trying to figure out how to make movie downloads a viable business. But I’m surprised no one else before now who is trying to make movie downloads a viable business came up with this.

I’m currently signed up with Blockbuster’s movie rental by mail service. This move by Netflix is making me seriously consider switching providers. Anyone else thinking about that?

[tags]Netflix changing the movie downloads business, New way to watch downloadable movies from Netflix[/tags]