The big catch with Netflix’s Roku box

Sections: Content, DVD/DVR/Blu-ray, HDTV, Portable Video, Video, Video Providers

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I am sure you, like me, require a change in undergarments as a result of the surprise announcement today of the Roku set top box for Netflix. This little dynamo lets you stream movies from Netflix’s instant line up and watch them from the comfort of your couch. This will be enough to spur me to start my Netflix back up again. But, there is a catch.

Get this image out of your head: you won’t be sitting on your catch browsing through Netflix trying to figure out what to watch. That is, unless you also have a laptop or other device you can move movies into your instant queue so you can view them with the box. Yes, the box only pulls from a list you have to set up prior on a computer.

While the reality of setting up a list isn’t a huge downer, it does take away some of the simplicity for me. Of course, I’d probably be complaining of the daunting task of working through Netflix’s library with the simplistic remote had they allowed me to do so…Adding another step hurts just a little.

Also, you won’t be able to port these movies to an iPod (at least legally as I understand it). Not a huge deal, you can always download from iTunes if you must for a portable experience, but it should be mentioned as a potential dig vs. the Apple TV+.

A lot of chatter about this box has to do with content, and rightly so. However, a quick look at the iTunes collection shows me 1796 movies total available for (slow) download and 1107 available for rental at $3.99 each after the $229 box price. Netflix’s instant movie selection is at 10,000 movies and TV. According to Saul Hansell from the New York Times,

“Because of the way Hollywood sells rights to its products, most of the Internet titles are more than five years old, although there are some newer independent films and TV shows.”

On the plus side, there is a 3rd party app for the iPhone that allows you to handily control your Netflix account, so you could snuggle up with your remote and iPhone and deal. Somehow I suspect Apple won’t be approving this app for their App Store.

How fast will content get updated for Netflix instant? The answer seems cloudy. This is the future of the way entertainment is delivered, so lets hope Hollywood and Netflix can figure this out quickly. Though, Hollywood’s adaptation of change is about as fast as I am in the 1500 meter sprint. Slow.

Read [New York Times] Via [Wired]

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  • Auggie

    Great Idea and simple too but …..

    Isn't Comcast and Cox cable internet service bandwidth throtting all long downloads due to supposed P2P bad boys syndrome?

    Does this fit into the same catagory? Long Movie Files !

    Comcast is already throttling my long database backup file transfers from work!

    What is the difference , if any?

  • JG Mason

    Bandwidth issues are a good question. After some digging I found:
    "Netflix has four quality settings for every Instant film, and those settings—each at a different bitrate—represent different quality options the service delivers, depending upon your network bandwidth. Roku recommends users have at minimum a 1.5Mbps connection; movies average a bit-rate of 2.2Mbps. The player uses algorithms to analyze the available bandwidth and the film’s bitrate, and adjust the playback quality accordingly." -Macworld

    I suppose the box would choose a lower quality setting in your throttled circumstance?

    Makes one wonder how the ISP's will react if bandwidth becomes hogged by everyone downloading movies…