Netflix might be hedging its bets on an impending movie rental announcement by Apple. Starting today, subscribers to all but the cheapest ($4.99 per month for two DVDs) Netflix plans will receive unlimited streaming of more than 6,000 available movies.
In the past, streaming was fixed by blocks of hours commensurate with how much you paid per month. The $16.99 per month (three DVDs out at a time) plan came with 17 hours of streaming, for instance.
It’s widely believed that Apple will announce a $3.99 iTunes movie rental plan tomorrow at MacWorld. This move by Netflix could be seen as an early response to that. It seems similar to subscription-based music services that offer all-you-can-eat music downloads for a set price per month while Apple has continued to hold steady with its per-song fee for downloads you can keep.
Except in this case, with movies, Netflix offers all-you-can-eat, while Apple will offer per-movie downloads for movies you can’t keep. If you watch more than five movies each month, Netflix might turn out to be the better option (for PC users at least). Of course, half of this is pure speculation until Apple makes some sort of actual announcement tomorrow.
Netflix expands Internet viewing option [AP/Yahoo! News]