Thursday marks a line in the sand for Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) users. Sept. 1, 2011, is the day when Netflix is no longer offering an integrated "hybrid" plan, with which subscribers get their content through both streaming and traditional DVDs for one low price. As of Thursday, Netflix fans will have to decide if they want just streaming ($7.99), just DVD delivery ($7.99 for one at a time), or both ($15.98) ... or to not be a subscriber at all anymore.
While common complaints about Netflix streaming often revolve around the lack of new releases (which doesn't drive their business, according to a company spokesperson; see this article), one thing that Netflix has done very well is to make sure its streaming service is available on many systems. Along with a monthly streaming subscription, not only can a user watch Netflix content on a computer, but through the TV via a Nintendo Wii, an X-Box 360 (but this requires an X-Box Live Gold subscription as well), Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, or a PS3. In addition, Netflix apps allow portable devices to access the service as well--iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Windows Phones, and even the Nintendo 3DS. This accessibility makes the service all the more appealing, with each option allowing access to your "instant queue," and also providing suggestions based on your past picks.
HispanicBusiness.com tested the subscription service on the Wii, 3DS and an Android-based phone. On the Wii, the service was slick, high-quality, and done via an intuitive interface. The 3DS, using a wireless network, was a touch clunkier in terms of fast-forwarding or rewinding, but still a high-quality picture on that little screen, utilizing the bottom touchscreen for navigation purposes. The least satisfying was the Android version, which was impressive in that it worked using 3G mobile Internet as well as it did when using Wi-Fi; it was a little buggy and had to be restarted a few times, but taking it virtually anywhere has a great appeal for road warriors ... or those with kids. You never know when you need to break out the Elmo.
Both Wall Street and consumers are waiting to see what short- and long-term affects this demarcation of subscription plans holds for the company in terms of fans, revenues and stock price. But one thing's clear: Netflix is dedicated to making at least one of its services -- the one taking advantage of Internet technology -- an ingrained and near-essential option.
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