But with millions of Xbox 360 consoles already sold in the U.S. and a built-in networking solution with the Xbox Live service, Netflix may have found the answer to its distribution woes. No Netflix-proprietary device would be needed. Microsoft needs content; Netflix needs a delivery mechanism. This could be a match made in heaven.
So if this is the perfect marriage of technology and content, why aren’t I more excited? I have an Xbox. I’ve been a loyal Netflix customer for years. I’d love to be able to skip the whole DVD by mail thing and get my movies instantly. What’s the problem here? For me, the excitement of a potential Xbox / Netflix marriage is seriously diminished by one little problem: content.
A Question of Content
Netflix has an absolutely enormous library of movies and television shows on DVD. If it has ever been released to DVD, chances are that Netflix has it. So does that mean that a Netflix subscriber could watch any of these released movies through instant download? Unfortunately, no.
Apparently, the studios are reluctant to allow Netflix to release all their movies via a download / streaming mechanism. Only a very small subset of the total Netflix library is available for instant download. For example, I have 107 movies and TV shows lined up in my Netflix queue. Of those 107, only 5 are available for instant download: a documentary, two old Hitchcock films, a musical from the 90’s, and a sci-fi movie from the 70’s. Not exactly A-list material available for download. To be fair, there are a few semi-recent blockbuster movies available and several current TV shows available (The Office, Heroes, and Friday Night Lights come to mind), but these are the exception rather than the rule. The vast majority of the content available for instant download is outdated, special interest, or just plain bad.
So I’m not doing back-flips in anticipation of a partnership between Netflix and Microsoft. As cool and convenient as the distribution mechanism would be, I don’t crave instant download access to Boys N the Hood, A Clockwork Orange, or Cher: The Farewell Tour. No thanks. The majority of the Netflix movies that I would actually want to watch just aren’t there right now.
That said, I do think a Microsoft / Netflix partnership has great potential if not immediate appeal. The distribution mechanism could rival anything out there today and would be instantly viable for millions of Netflix / Xbox customers. I’m also hopeful that, in time, Netflix will be able to forge deals to get more relevant titles available on its instant download service. Amazon has already accomplished the feat with its “Unbox” service as a fee-per-download model. Maybe the Netflix fee-per-month model will someday be palatable to the movie studios as well.
If that day ever comes, I’ll be doing back-flips with the best of them.
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