Players will stream content from rental service
Samsung Electronics Co. is equipping Blu-ray DVD players so they can retrieve movies and TV shows from Netflix Inc.’s Internet streaming service, accelerating Netflix’s push to develop more delivery methods beyond the mail.The deal, to be announced Thursday, could set the stage for Netflix to embed software connecting to its streaming service directly into television sets made by Samsung. In a statement, Netflix and Samsung said they are planning to plant the streaming capability in a variety of home entertainment products. Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive officer, declined to elaborate on the other possibilities in an interview. This won’t be the first time that Netflix has piped its online content through Blu-ray DVD players – devices built to show movies in high-definition quality that outshines traditional DVD players. LG Electronics began selling a $350 Blu-ray player with Netflix streaming earlier this month. Netflix currently has nearly 8.7 million subscribers, most of whom still go online to request DVD rentals that are mailed to them a day or two later. But the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company has been trying to provide more instant gratification with a 21-month-old service that beams movies and TV shows over high-speed Internet connections in less than a minute. After a slow start, the “Watch Instantly” service has been become more popular as Netflix expanded the selection to include more recent titles and forged various partnerships that have made it easier to watch on a big-screen TV instead of being tethered to a personal computer. A Silicon Valley startup, Roku Inc., has been selling a $100 device that streams Netflix’s service to TVs for the past five months and Microsoft Corp.’s popular video game console, the Xbox 360, will become compatible within a few weeks. Samsung’s connection to the Netflix service will work through two Blu-ray models, the BD-P2500 and BD-P2550, that have already been on the market. Consumers who already own those Samsung models will need a free software upgrade to make the players compatible with Netflix’s streaming service. Future models, carrying a suggested price of $400, will have the Netflix feature built in. Fetching the movies and TV shows from a streaming library of more than 12,000 titles requires a minimum subscription of $8.99 per month that also includes DVD rentals delivered through the mail. Netflix is aiming to make access to its streaming service a standard feature in all Blu-ray players, much like Dolby sound has become a staple in consumer electronics products, Hastings said. Although they are still in relatively few households, Blu-ray players are expected to become more prevalent as prices fall and more consumers upgrade their TV sets to take full advantage of the February transition from analog to digital transmission. With the sagging economy causing consumers re-examine their spending habits, Netflix can use every edge it can get. Subscriber growth has been running behind last year’s pace in the past two months, a trend Hastings expects to last through at least the rest of the year. Netflix is hoping to soften the blow charging an additional $1 per more month to about 500,000 subscribers who rent Blu-ray DVDs. The surcharge is effective Nov. 5.