Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Netflix and Roku Accelerate IP Video Adoption

When I launched the IP Video Curator microsite late last year, I had followed a path of online video entertainment research and discovery that led me to sign-up for a Netflix subscription.

This new experience has changed my TV viewing behavior -- for the better.

Netflix is a month-to-month subscription-based service, where Internet access is a required part of their offering. Meaning, I must go to their Web site to select from a library of DVDs, which are then delivered to me via first-class mail.

I chose an unlimited use plan. I can rent one DVD at a time, plus stream movie and TV episode videos (17,000+) online -- as often as I want. When I’m signed-in to my Netflix account, my new content selections are placed into either the DVD or “Instant” play Queue.

TV Viewers Morph into Programmers

My Queue is the list of video content that I want to see, in the order I want to receive them. I may add, delete or change the order of content in my Queue at any time. I can also watch Instant play selections immediately while browsing, or defer them until when I’m ready.

Experimentation is a key component of the Netflix approach. They have extended the addressable market of potential subscribers by providing a list of Netflix-Ready devices -- targeted at consumers who prefer a simplified online video user experience (compared with the alternative of connecting a PC to a TV set).

Initially, I used a notebook PC (via S-video and audio cable connections) to stream my Instant play selections to our primary TV set. This configuration works just fine, if you don’t mind placing the PC next to the TV – with the required connection and disconnection of cables for each viewing.

Intuitive Set-top Box User Experience

After researching the alternative methods to view Netflix video on a TV, I purchased a Roku player. This device has Wi-Fi built-in, making it easy to add onto my wireless network at home. Just like the PC connection, the Roku player delivers a consistent high-quality TV viewing experience.

The Roku player is a purpose-built permanent installation, so it enables spontaneous use of my Netflix Instant play content. Plus, there are other noteworthy benefits that enhance the viewing experience, when compared to using a Web browser on a PC to select and play videos.

The Roku player includes a remote control that is designed to simplify the process of accessing content within the on-screen channel guide. Compared to a traditional pay-TV video-on-demand offering, the Netflix and Roku player combination is a welcomed improvement.

I can now easily stop, rewind, or fast-forward a video. I can rate the video and then remove it from my Instant play queue – all with a few clicks of the Roku remote control.

In summary, I would anticipate that this type of comprehensive à la carte service offering, and hopefully others like it, will accelerate the adoption of IP video. Today, this solution is primarily embraced by the early-adopter market segment -- meaning, the upside potential is huge.