Netflix says what's good for MSO's digital TV and Internet subs could be great for its own 'Watch Instantly' video streaming service

February 24, 2010

3 Min Read
Netflix Cheers Cablevision’s PC-to-TV Play

A Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) executive welcomed Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC)’s move Wednesday to test a product that will easily allow Web surfers to bring online video content to the TV.

“Anything that moves the Internet to the TV is a good thing for the ecosystem,” said Netflix vice president of corporate communications Steve Swasey, noting that about half of Netflix’s 12.3 million subscribers use view streaming video content from Netflix in addition to receiving DVDs in the mail.

Swazey compared Cablevision’s “PC to TV Media Relay” product, which would allow Cablevision’s digital cable and high-speed Internet customers to view content from a PC on the TV via traditional cable digital boxes, to other Internet-connected devices that Netflix subscribers can use to stream content. Cablevision expects technical trials to start in June. (See Cablevision to Deliver Net Content to Set-Tops.)

Netflix subscribers can get access to movies and TV shows from about 50 Internet-connected devices, including Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)’s Xbox 360, Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE)’s Playstation 3, and Internet-connected TVs like the Sony Bravia. The Nintendo of America Inc. Wii will get access to Netflix streaming this spring. (See Netflix Goes Wii.)

Netflix also allows owners of Blu-ray players, TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), and Roku Inc. receives to stream several TV series, including The Office, South Park, Dexter, and The Tudors, in addition to a limited number of movies from its library.

If Cablevision were to expand its PC-to-TV product to all of its subscribers, and if other cable MSOs adopted a similar strategy, the technology could pose a threat to emerging over-the-top Internet video companies like Boxee or ZillionTV Corp. (See Ronen: Boxee Isn't a Cable Killer, A 'Zillion' Reasons Behind Delay of Internet TV Launch, and Nsight Takes ZillionTV on a Test Run .)

Asked what Cablevision’s move could mean for Boxee, vice president of marketing Andrew Kippen said in an email that the company would like to “learn more about the solution in terms of resolution and responsiveness.” Boxee plans to begin selling a $200 receiver by the end of the second quarter that will allow Web surfers to watch online video on a TV. (See Boxee Urges TV Nets to 'Experiment'.)

“But in an ideal situation I think it’s a good move by Cablevision to differentiate themselves from the competition,” Kippen added.

But Cablevision’s move could draw the ire of Hulu LLC and its owners -- NBC Universal , News Corp. (NYSE: NWS), and Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS). Last year, Hulu blocked Boxee from allowing its users to access Hulu programming on its Internet video browser. That decision also prompted questions for executives at NBC Universal and Comcast at a recent hearing about their planned merger. (See Comcast CEO: We Won’t Block Rivals, Q&A: Boxee CEO Chats About the 'Hulu Situation', and Avner Ronen, Boxee CEO & Founder.)

Hulu didn’t respond to a request for comment about the Cablevision product on Wednesday.

There was mixed reaction to Cablevision’s move on Wednesday. On Digital Trends, Nick Mokey said the PC to TV Media Relay “will essentially act as a big, invisible HDMI [High-Definition Multimedia Interface] cable.”

Chadwick Matlin, writing on Slate's The Big Money Blog, called Cablevision’s move “a brilliant strategy to combat workaround devices like the Boxee Box.”

In a column on All Things D, The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Kafka tied Cablevision’s move to TV Everywhere products from Comcast and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), “but in reverse.”

Paid Content’s Staci Kramer noted that the Media Relay service is “aimed directly at the folks who don’t want to know how anything works or to do anything more complex than click the remote to see something -- i.e., the majority.”

— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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