Ahead of Macworld Expo tomorrow where Apple, Inc. is anticipated to announce its own movie-rental business, online rental service Netflix Inc. said Monday its subscribers will be able to stream as many movies and television shows as they want online for no additional charge.
Netflix will expand the online streaming service it launched last year. Until now, Netflix restricted how long its more than 7 million subscribers could use the streaming service each month, based on how much they pay to rent DVDs. The service was limited to a fixed number of hours per month per customer and subscribers were charged $1 per hour of streamed entertainment, the company said in a statement.
The Netflix service would have an advantage over the rumored Apple movie rental service by removing the time constraints on its streamed entertainment. The Financial Times reported on Dec. 26 that Apple signed an agreement with at least one studio, Twentieth Century Fox, to offer rental downloads of its movies. Apple will charge $3.99 for movies that can be downloaded and played for up to 24 hours.
For example, under a popular plan that charges $16.99 per month to rent up to three DVDs at a time, Netflix customers could stream 17 hours of movies or TV shows online each month using the streaming service called ''Watch Instantly.''
Now, subscribers with unlimited DVD rental plans can watch as many movies and TV shows online as they want at no additional cost, Netflix said. The streaming service will not be provided to a small portion of Netflix customers who pay $4.99 to rent up to two DVDs per month.
Unlimited has always been a very powerful selling point with our subscribers and a large part of what set us apart in the marketplace, said Leslie Kilgore, the company's chief marketing officer, in the statement.
In talking with members about our streaming feature during the past year, it became clear that, as with DVDs, the idea of streaming unlimited movies and TV episodes on a PC resonated quite strongly. And we're now in a good position to offer that, Kilgore added.
Netflix customers will have unlimited access to a library of 6,000 titles; including episodes of the popular NBC series Heroes, The Office and 30 Rock.