Netflix Streaming – First Impressions

4 12 2010

Netflix are offering 31 day ‘free trials’ to their Movie and TV Show offerings via real-time internet streaming versus their traditional model of getting movies in the mail.

31 Day ‘Free’ Trial:

I say ‘free trial’ carefully, you have to provide some form payment such as credit card or paypal account to get this free trial. Really what they are offering is the first month for free if you sign-up and  join.

For me Movies are just OK and I’ve often considered a Netflix account, but always shied away, Recently however they have added TV shows to their offerings as well as the real-time streaming. This time I bit and signed up.

Quality of Streaming Content:

Don’t know what streaming is/means? If you seen a YouTube video that’s streaming, but there the comparison ends. NetFlix have done well.

I think the quality is great! Not quite as clear as the 1080i TV broadcasts I’m accustomed to, but definitely 720p quality! Considering my modest setup I am quite frankly amazed at the clarity and lack of skips often associated with internet videos. This is a cut above YouTube for sure. The only time I experienced skipping and choppy video was between 7pm-8pm on a Friday evening, other evenings including Saturday, are just fine!!

It doesn’t seem to matter if you use Netflix’s webpage or a PC media center to do the streaming. It’s great either way.

Is Everything available via Streaming instead of DVD?

No. Currently only about 9% of NetFlix’s extensive media library is available using the streaming service. This still accounts for 60,000 titles. I searched for 5 movies, only 1 came up, namely Food, INC. I searched TV shows, and this patchy also.

I did find a British TV show called Survivors, which is a remake of the TV show I watched as a kid. It is a phenomenal 5-star production!! Search it out, there are 12 episodes in two series released in 2008 and 2010.

Will NetFlix get current TV shows anytime soon? Maybe, they are offering the networks up to $100,000 per episode for current TV shows.

I searched for the Lampoon’s (Griswold’s) Family Christmas Vacation – only on DVD, however it has a streaming release date of 12/22/2010, just in time for Christmas!! The Griswold’s family vacation to Wally World is already available on streaming.

How I watched the Movies and TV Shows:

Watching movies or TV on a computer is for the birds. I don’t have a Roku box or Boxee Box or Apple TV or Google TV appliance (hint hint Santa). So I had to find something better than my Laptops LCD display and puny speakers. Fortunately my 3 year old Laptop has an S-Video output I was able to hookup to my HDTV, I added a cable from the laptops headset jack to two RCA jacks on the TV for decent sound. I also own an HP Media Center remote which works very well with Windows 7 Media center, this allowed me to pause, select change volume etc from the armchair. So far so good. This a geeky setup, so I can try out the technology, a separate set-top box is the way to go. I suggest the Roku XDS. Recent model Blu-ray and high end DVD players have Netflix built-in, you may already have it without knowing.

My internet at home is insipid. My maximum downstream throughput is 2.7MB on a good day, my house just isn’t in the right spot for either 6MB traditional DSL or 12/24MB U-Verse. I don’t have cable, thank you, never had never will. My wireless network is the older G standard, not the newer high speed N standard. Even so with all this old and slow equipment it worked very very well. A testament to the technology NetFlix are using. I noticed that streaming via their website would switch between HD and regular quality, meaning my setup/internet is marginal fro HD. Even with all that, I was still impressed with the quality.

The Technology:

Netflix stream using Microsoft’s Silverlight technology. They recently switched from Flash to Silverlight in September 2010. Is this because Silverlight is better than Flash? Probably not, I believe their motivation for switching is that Silverlight protects the video content from illegal downloads better than Flash. Microsoft have built in DRM which makes it attractive to NetFlix and the content providers such as Hollywood and the TV Networks. In addition Flash is a huge target for those writing downloaders such as YouTube Downloader, few people if any are writing downloaders for Silverlight. Silverlight has almost no internet presence, save for the Olympics and now NetFlix. This is a huge shot in the arm for the struggling Silverlight technology. Netflix now accounts for over 20% of prime-time internet bandwidth consumption in North America, which translates to Silverlight delivering 20% of the US bandwidth consumption, and the streaming revolution has only just begun!!

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