Saturday, June 30, 2007

The "Instant Watch" Feature on Netflix: Surprisingly Rewarding!

Tonight was a stay-at-home Friday night. It was a long week, and, although there was a good show that I could have attended just down the street, I was still nursing my hangover from last night's "have fun in Ecuador tracking Andean bears" farewell party (not for me of course. I will be nowhere near Ecuador or any Andean bears this summer. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just a logistical thing, i.e. you can do anything, but not everything. I digress. My point here is about movies. Not bears).

So, after watching the one DVD in my possession that I had rented from Netflix, I remembered a commercial I saw this week. It said that you can watch streaming movies online through Netflix. I was up for another movie. Not Friday night channel surfing. Not any more blogging (until now of course). A movie. And I figured, I already have a Netflix account, how much could a streaming movie cost? As it turns out, streaming movies now come free with a Netflix account. For each dollar you pay monthly to Netflix, you get one hour of free streaming video. For example, I get 18 hours because I shell out $17.99 monthly.

Although the selection isn't great -- I liken it to rooting through the bargain DVD bin at Target -- the movies are free, and better than what you would find on cable on an average night. I ended up watching The Core, which is about how Hilliary Swank and some generic scientists and astronauts will save the planet if the core of the Earth ceases to spin. It's a movie that I never would have rented, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. And there seemed to be something for anyone who is on a late-night movie hunt.

After a one-minute installation of the Netflix plugin, I was watching the movie stream seamlessly on my laptop. At home, I use cable internet over a wireless internet connection. When I watched TV shows over streaming internet through this connection in the past (fueling my Heroes addiction this spring), I often had breaks in the connection for buffering, even if I plugged in directly to the router. I had none of these problems with Netflix -- it was just like watching a DVD!

Overall, I give Netflix's instant watch feature four and a half out of five, losing one point only because of the second rate selection of videos to watch, and adding half a point back because I'm still baffled that it's free. Good job, Netflix!

If you're a Netflix user, simply click the "Watch Now" tab once you're logged in to your Netflix account. You get 1 hour of free watching per $1 you pay to Netflix per month. Unfortunately, the service seems to require that you use Windows. I am currently unclear whether this feature is available for non-Netflix users.