San Francisco: DVD-by-mail service Netflix Inc. will begin delivering movies and other programming directly to televisions later this year in the US through a set-top box using a high-speed Internet connection.
The set-top box, to be made by South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc. as part of a partnership announced late Wednesday, is designed to broaden the appeal of a year-old streaming service that Netflix provides to its 7 million subscribers at no additional charge.
LG Electronics did not reveal how much the set-top box will cost when it hits the market in the summer or early autumn. Similar devices made by Apple Inc. and Vudu Inc. cost $299 (Rs11,810) to $399.
A bevy of other gadgets designed to bring more digital entertainment into living rooms is expected to be unveiled next week at a major consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.
Netflix’s streaming service is the cornerstone of the Los Gatos-based company’s strategy to retain and attract customers as technology makes it easier to rent and buy movies within a few minutes instead of waiting for them to be delivered through the mail.
Although Netflix says its subscribers have watched more than 10 million movies and TV episodes through its Watch Instantly option so far, the streaming service has been too constraining for many subscribers.
That is because all the streaming service’s programming must be watched on a personal computer, unless the viewer knows how to link a high-speed Internet connection into a TV monitor.
The set-top box is supposed to serve as a bridge that will enable just about anyone with a high-speed Internet connection to plug in a few wires so they will be able to access Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature on their TVs.
Subscribers will still need to use a computer to pick out which programs they’re interested in streaming. The selections, culled from more than 6,000 titles available in streaming library, will then show up on the TV screen.
“It’s going to be very slick and easy,” said Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO. “We want the TV experience to be very relaxing and not like visiting a website.”
Depending on which subscription plan they have, Netflix customers can watch anywhere from 5 to 48 hours of programming through the streaming service each month at no extra cost.
The LG Electronics alliance is just the first of several partnerships Netflix hopes to strike this year to extend its delivery options beyond the mail. Although he wouldn’t provide specifics, Hastings listed video game consoles and high-definition DVD players as other potential channels for Netflix.
Delivering movies through the mail is expected to remain Netflix’s primary money maker for years to come. Nevertheless, Netflix has spent about $40 million on the development of its streaming service during the past year.
May Wong in San Jose contributed to this story.