Building on a technology partnership announced at the International CES show earlier this year, LG Electronics and Netflix are poised to launch a new Blu-ray Disc player with the ability to stream feature films and popular TV episodes from Netflix's catalog of more than 12,000 titles, beginning this autumn.
"It's an important development and Netflix is a good dance partner for LG," said Joshua Martin, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group. "If Netflix can get on stand-alone consumer devices and TV sets with as little added cost to the consumer as possible, they certainly will benefit."
Playing In 30 Seconds
The explosion of media resources in the home, ranging from high-definition and satellite broadcasts to the Internet, is creating headaches for some consumers because of all the connections to the TV set. For example, the stand-alone Roku device for accessing Netflix content that rolled out earlier this year "is an example of having to add another box," Martin noted.
"But Netflix is also taking the opposite approach," Martin said, by combining its online delivery service with Microsoft's Xbox 360 game player and LG's player.
Although LG has not announced a price for its BD300 Network Blu-ray player, Netflix Vice President Steve Swasey expects it to be well under $500 when it hits store shelves on Oct. 1. The player will let consumers watch Blu-ray discs and convert standard DVDs to the 1080p format for "a bit better quality" than before, Swasey said.
Netflix subscribers will be able to stream movies and TV episodes to the player at no additional charge, Swasey said. The device's queue-based user interface "displays all the user's Netflix programs on order in a list that shows up on the LG Blu-ray player when you turn it on and hit the Netflix button," he added. Once selected, movies will begin playing in as little as 30 seconds, he said.
Netflix members can use the player's remote control to access program synopses, rate movies, and even fast-forward or rewind the video stream. The LG BD300 also incorporates a "Live" feature that delivers real-time interactivity options that will enable users to view new movie previews and other special programming content in an on-screen picture-in-picture format. The product will ship with LG's SimpLink technology, which allows users to control similarly equipped LG TV and AV products.
Whereas the Xbox and Roku offer consumers wireless connectivity options, the LG BD300 will rely on a wired broadband Ethernet connection, Swasey said. LG's research demonstrates that most people expected to buy the new product already have wired broadband connections in their homes, he explained.
The lack of wireless capability is understandable given that wireless standards for streaming high-definition video around the home are still being hammered out. Martin sees "an upsell opportunity" down the road to add wireless capability. Meanwhile, there are options available for connecting the player to other home entertainment gear "that meet all consumer needs," he said.