I think it was around NewTeeVee Live that I really became a fan of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. There was a presentation by a representative of the Cable Industry about how they envisioned a future where the diversification of media choices and options would be consumer driven … Through the creation of “one cable box to rule them all” providing every option that the cable company felt like offering. It was old-media thinking exemplified in an Orwellian-type manifesto (from a guy dressed like Richard Burton in “1984” no less.)
Then came Hastings, talking about options … about having an appliance in your living room that would be feed by whatever sources pleased you … Cable, Internet, alternative streaming delivery services yet to be named. It was inspiring.
Netflix’s broadband streaming service isn’t new, (and to some reading this blog I’m probably going to sound like some Luddite suddenly embracing the power of automated cotton gins, or whatever) but I’ve just really come to love this technology. After trying the Netflix streaming cababilities via Silverlight a few months ago, I was blown away by the concept, the quality, and the price of the service.
For those of you who, like me, have been living under a Consumer Electronics-blocked rock, the Roku is this nifty little $99 router that hooks up to your TV or Media Center, and either a wired or (built-in) wireless network connection. With one of these doobies and an $8.99/month Netflix account, you can stream a whole library of Netflix and Starz film and TV offerings into your home.
The box has composite, S-Video, Component and HDMI video outs and optical audio, and sets up in about 5 minutes, including surfing into Netflix from your ‘puter and activating it. It figures out optimal streaming speed based on your available bandwidth (real-time) and presents you with a menu from your Netflix “Instant Play” queue.
It’s pretty damn neat. I watched two films last night, and was amazed at both the convenience and quality of the product and service.
The quality, depending on available bandwidth, is about the same as a DVD and way better than the over-compressed crap served up by the much-despised Comcast Cable (who I deleted as a line-item in my budget last year because I refuse to pay a butt load of cash every month for content that looks like low-def YouTube videos shot with a first generation DV camera.)
While the title offerings were limited at first, there is a wide choice available for instant play now, and while I’ll still get one DVD at-a-time from Netflix, for items not available for instant play, they have a HUGE library of material to choose from. Just think … No more waiting for the mail, no more return envelopes, no more diversion of returns by sneaky co-workers glomming off your Netflix subscription out of the interoffice mail. It’s a thing of beauty.
But wait! There’s more, just like a Ron Popeil product, there’s more!
Roku is going to be offering other vendor’s streaming choices … Including the amazon.com library of over 40,000 films, with more vendor announcements expected to come.
I’m going to be getting AT&T U-Verse video and dsl next month, as I really want to get fibre-optic quality broadband, the truth is I could live with just having Netflix/Roku and over-the-air DTV as my main viewing choices. Most of my news, and not a small amount of TV viewing, is happening on one of my computers these days, so traditional, overpriced, cable, just doesn’t fit my viewing habits anymore.
The biggest downside to the whole deal is that the poor HDMI connection on the back of my Roku box just can’t get no love from my current, composite video-based, home entertainment center. Alas, I find myself moved to remedy this situation by giving in and buying an HDTV. Of course a new A/V receiver will have to be part of the deal and, while we’re at it, an XBox 360 is a must to capitalize on that distribution channel’s capabilities and do applied research on trends in gaming (strictly for scientific and professional reasons, of course.)
Okay, so this $99 gizmo is going to wind up costing me about $3,000. Is that too much to sacrifice in the name of progress? Really.