Console to be used to stream features, shows

Business is already booming for Netflix as more consumers rent movies and TV shows in lieu of more expensive entertainment during the recession.

But the DVD-by-mail service could soon see its subscriber base grow even more — and make the practice of digitally streaming movies at home even more attractive — now that it’s brokered a distribution deal with Sony’s PlayStation 3, putting Netflix on two of the three major videogame consoles.

Netflix customers who own Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and subscribe to the Xbox Live service have been able to digitally access moves from the online vidtailer for more than a year.

Netflix subscriber numbers grew by 28% in the third quarter compared to the same three-month period a year ago, mainly as consumers rented more DVDs rather than buying them.

The deal with Sony will make Netflix available to the 9 million PS3 owners in the U.S. starting next month. The access is free as long as the customer pays at least $9 per month to rent from Netflix.

Users will initially have to insert a Blu-ray disc to start the Netflix service, which has a library of 17,000 movies and TV shows available for streaming.

Netflix has been looking to expand onto the PS3 for some time, especially as Sony promotes the device as a hub for all forms of entertainment, not just videogames.

Sales of the device, which had already been offering 2,000 movies and 13,000 TV shows to digitally download or rent, started picking up significantly in September after Sony dropped the price of the console by $100.

The PlayStation pact marks the latest digital platform Netflix has been able to lock down for its growing streaming service since brokering deals with Microsoft and for TVs that connect to the Internet, Web-enabled Blu-ray players and the Roku digital video player.

Netflix currently has a little more than 11 million paying subs, and more of them have started streaming video with their traditional DVD rentals: Company said it saw a 145% increase in streamed video in the third quarter, with 42% of its subscribers streaming at least 15 minutes of one TV episode or movie during the period.

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