Just a few short years ago NetFlix was only in the DVD rental business. Things have changed during those years, though, and Netflix members can now stream content across the internet using just about every device in their living room instead of waiting for those shiny disks to show up in their mailbox.
I’d previously written a post about what the NetFlix streaming service was and how it worked (you can read that post here). When I’d written that post you could only watch NetFlix video streams on a computer. Now there are so many different ways to stream that content that I thought I’d take a minute to list the different ways that I watch NetFlix right in my living room right now. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list by any means, but just an example of how pervasive this ability to stream movies and TV shows has become. Here, then, in no particular order, are the ways that I can watch NetFlix in my own living room.
Roku Digital Video Player
The Roku Digital Video Player is a small box which hooks up to your TV to access the NetFlix library over the internet. When it was first released its sole purpose was to stream NetFlix video but the folks at Roku have been busy and there are now a slew of additional content sources for the Roku. (I’ll be writing a post on those new channels soon.)
For a lot more information on the Roku Digital Video Player you can read my original post here.
You have two options when it comes to watching NetFlix content using a PS3. The first (and simplest) is to request a disk from NetFlix which will connect your PS3 to your NetFlix account. For now, at least, that disc has to be in the PS3 to stream the content but a future firmware update is supposed to eliminate that requirement and put a link to NetFlix right on the XMB.
You can also use the PS3’s UPnP capabilities to connect to a PlayOn server and access your NetFlix content that way. Like the Roku box, using PlayOn gives you other content options in addition to the NetFlix streams. For a more detailed look at PlayOn please see my previous post here.
Windows Media Center
If you’re running Windows Vista (Home Premium or Ultimate editions) or Windows 7 (Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions) you have access to your NetFlix streams through the NetFlix tile under the Movies option.
Like the Playstation 3, the XBox 360 can access the NetFlix streaming service directly (through its dashboard) and indirectly (using PlayOn). Unlike the PS3, though, the NetFlix access is built right into the dashboard. Also unlike the PS3, unfortunately, you have to have a Microsoft Live Gold membership to be able to use that NetFlix capability.
The XBox 360 can also act as a UPnP client and can access UPnP servers such as PlayOn. If you have an XBox 360 but you aren’t paying for a Live Gold membership this may a way to get to your NetFlix content.
The XBox 360 has one additional way to get to those NetFlix streams. All XBox 360s can act as Media Center extenders and can act as a front-end to any computer in your house which is running one of the newer flavors of Media Center (see above). While you can use this Media Center Extender capability to access most of the features of Media Center you can’t use it to access the NetFlix tile.
As always, there are ways to get around that particular problem. There are two extensions for Media Center which extend NetFlix access to a Media Center Extender: vmcNetFlix (read my post on that here) and vmcPlayIt.
Computer Hooked to TV
If you have a laptop or other PC you may also be able to connect those computers directly to your TV. Newer televisions make it much easier to connect a computer and, even better, many newer computers include an HDMI output so that your television sees your computer in the same way that it sees your DVD player or your cable box – as just another video source.
That a pretty extensive list of ways to get that NetFlix content onto your television and that list only includes the ways that I personally have access to. The NetFlix website lists a bunch of additional hardware which has its viewing software already loaded, including televisions (LG, Sony, and Vizio), Blu-Ray players (Insignia, LG, Samsung, and Sony), and TiVo. Even Nintendo has announced that it’s Wii video game system will have NetFlix streaming capabilities by the end of the year.
The Future is Streaming
It’s pretty apparent that NetFlix sees streaming as its future and is trying to get its streaming software onto as many different types of hardware as possible. TV’s, video game consoles, TiVo’s – pretty much whatever is connected to your television can, or soon will be able to, stream NetFlix content. Considering the strides that they’ve made towards that end in just the last few years I don’t doubt that they’ll succeed.