Monday, May 25, 2009

Media package vs. Streaming



Last year I wrote about the fact that my perfect home movie delivery mechanism would be HD on demand for a fixed price such as the NetFlix model. Well, since that time, NetFlix has started a service to implement just that.

I own an xBox 360. NetFlix first partnered with Microsoft to provide delivery of content via the internet to the xBox. When this was announced, I jumped all over this... I had to update my xBox account to a paid online account. This was done by buying an account card from a local video game store.

Once this was done and I had setup the account, I had access to a new que in NetFlix for on-demand content. I qued up some HD movies and some SD movies and set about watching them.

The upside:

It's great being able to jump onto the NetFlix web site and add a film to my que and watch it immediately. For example, Nancy's sister is visiting us right now for her last week in the U.S. before she moves to southern India. As we were discussing India, the topic of Ghandi came up and she said she had never seen the film. I was able to jump onto Netflix and add it, go into the family room and immediately watch it with her.

Nice...

The Downside:

This is new technology. As such, it still needs to mature a bit. Rewinding or fast forwarding can be a bit painful as it has to re-que the video before it plays it and this can take up to 20 seconds to do. Moreover, when you start a film, the system guages your connection speed and scales the quality of the video to match it.

Many times, it has decided on a very high bitrate only to encounter a connection slowing at which point it stops the film, resets the sample rate and rebuffers the video at the reduced quality. This can be disruptive and annoying.

Overall, the feel of this system is clunky. But, I suppose, this is to be expected with a new system like this. Additionally, they have a lot of catching up to do in terms of converting titles to their streaming system. So you have a significantly reduced set of titles to choose from vs. the DVD library offered by NetFlix.

Conclusion:

We're close. This system needs finessing but it's damn close. They need to add the extras that DVDs offer and clean up the video buffering model that they are using so that the viewer's experience is uninterupted. As it is right now, I use it and I am mostly happy with it.

I think this is the future. No more buying DVDs. Why would you? If a film has repeat viewing value, just add it to your que again. The addition of NetFlix's excellent web site for adding and managing titles as well as tracking your preferences is an added bonus.

And, finally, NetFlix has also added this to TiVo. The TiVo interface is a LOT more rudimetary than the xBox incarnation. However, if you have a NetFlix account and a TiVo with lifetime subscription support, there is no added cost unlike the xBox where I had to spend $40 on an anual account upgrade. Still, $40 is not the end of the world.

1 comment:

Rob:-] said...

I like the ideas but I don't want to give up the bonus features. I can't understand why they can't stream the bonus features just like the rest of the movie.

I bought "The Fountain", written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. But it didn't have a director's commentary. Well Aronofsky made one and put it on the Internet as an MP3. I watched the movie on my computer and just started the MP3 playing at the same time. Thanks Darren. That was a classy thing to do.