Not to long ago Blockbuster released its Total Access rental program, which basically mimics the Netflix idea of ordering movies online and never having to worry about late fees. Blockbuster Total Access also allowed you to return movies in-store and get new movies so while you are waiting for your movies you have new ones to watch. This great idea has the potential to hurt Netflix, but now Netflix is firing back with their own online program. This new program will allow users an option in their account window called “Watch it now”, where you can watch streaming movies on your computer through a website.
This is a great way for Netflix to keep some of its customer base that I am sure will switch to Total Access, and I knew that to stay in the game Netflix would have to come up with an idea that topped the Total Access program. Netflix new plan is Watch it Now, a feature that will be available June 2007 where Netflix customers will have the option to watch movies through the Netflix website; the idea is good but some people aren’t going to like this option.
In my mind this “Watch it now” feature doesn’t really top the Total Access plan, it’s a good way to keep some customers but if you think about how many people actually use the program and how many of those people actually want to sit and watch a movie at their computer, the numbers probably aren’t in Netflix’s favor.
Think about all the aspects that have to be in place to make the “watch it now” idea work. First the customer has to have a PC that will be powerful enough to play the video in the browser; the average person who uses Netflix probably doesn’t use their computer for a whole lot other than surfing the web and updating the Netflix Queue. I could be wrong but I am guessing system compatibility will be an issue.
Next think about where most people keep their computers, most have a computer room now in their home and the computer sits at a desk of some sort. How many users are going to want to sit at a desk to watch a movie? We love to sit on our comfortable couches with our 42 inch TV’s and our surround sound. Most users don’t have a premium media PC with a huge monitor and great sound; most users have a lack luster discount PC, with an old CRT monitor, this isn’t the ideal setting for watching movies. I don’t think enough users will want to use their PC to watch movies; they have the DVD program to get DVD’s.
The users also have to think about all their connections to the internet, yeah most of us have high speed internet now but there are still users who have dial up or other slow connections, they aren’t going to be able to watch movies over the net. A lot of users also have wireless connections and these can get interrupted from time to time, do you want to have to deal with all the aspects of the internet and all the issues that might arise while you are watching your movie? There are so many things that could cause an issue while you are watching your movie on your PC, a lot of users are going to just want to get their DVD’s put them in the DVD player and not have to worry if their connection is going to stay stable.
Netflix watch it now feature may however attract the users that do enjoy watching movies on their PC, there is a large number of people who rely on their PC for nearly all of their media needs. So if Netflix can entice these users to join up and use their new “Watch it Now” feature I think they have the potential to hit a new market. This will of course make I-Tunes and other Movie Download sites angry; since they make money on a per download basis from their users. It’s not the same process I know with I-Tunes you get to keep the download on your local machine, but with Netflix plan you can go back and watch the movie as often as you want. This opens the door for users to leave the I-Tunes style downloads and move more towards streaming movies.
I think overall this is a great idea but not all users are going to adopt the idea and use it like Netflix is hoping. Most users who use the Netflix program do it because they don’t want to sit at their computer and watch movies, the ones who do know how to get movies for free and won’t want to pay for something they don’t have to. Most people who rent movies want to sit in their living room and watch it on their television. This program has potential in the next few years as the PC and TV become more and more one piece of equipment, but for now I just don’t think the market is large enough.
Since this is a free service, by that I mean Netflix is simply going to add this as a feature to user’s accounts and not charge anything additional is a great idea. Not charging for this service is going to give users a chance to use it and decide if they like it. It will allow the users to find out if their computer is capable of such a task and maybe they will even see that they can integrate their computer and TV into one device. If Netflix starts to charge additional fees for “watch it now” be ready for the program to crash and burn. It is going to be interesting to see how this affects membership at Netflix, I think it will have a positive affect, it’s not going to cost users anything and some people will be curious enough to sign up and try it out.
This still doesn’t compete with the Total Access program, and I am sure if this “Watch it now” takes off then Block buster will create their own form of web based streaming movies for their Total Access users as well. I have been very impressed with Blockbuster’s Total Access program. Netflix is firing back against Total Access, will it succeed or will Total Access take down Netflix? Only time will tell.