What will Netflix mean to Canadian viewing habits? | WYT …

Now that Netflix has announced its plan to roll out service to Canada (except for Quebec, temporarily), there is certainly a level of excitement for those with a thirst for content via the Internet, but the move also raises some questions on what the future of the rental market will be in Canada.

No definitive date was given for the launch in Monday’s announcement, though the fall is the timeframe we can expect. This will be Netflix’s first expansion outside of the United States, and its business model of “unlimited” streaming should make things very interesting when coupled with Canadian Internet providers’ dreaded practice of “throttling” connections once bandwidth exceeds certain limits.

Since some of those providers also happen to offer satellite and cable TV services, the presence of Netflix might offer a level of competition that could worry the incumbents. The Netflix business model is based on monthly subscription plans that start at US$8.99 for customers in the U.S., which then allows subscribers to stream and watch whatever TV shows and movies they want without time limits through a Netflix-enabled device. The list of those continues to grow, but here is the gamut based on Netflix’s media kit:

“Among the large and expanding base of devices that can stream movies and TV episodes from Netflix right to members’ TVs are Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PS3 game consoles and, Nintendo’s Wii console; Blu-ray disc players from Samsung, LG and Insignia; Internet TVs from LG, Sony and VIZIO; the Roku digital video player and TiVo digital video recorders; and Apple’s iPad.”

This list should’ve also noted that PCs and Macs can playback Netflix-streamed content just as easily, meaning that you should be able to watch it on your TV if your computer is connected to it. The Roku digital video player isn’t available in Canada, though that may change once Netflix is up and running here.

While not everything Netflix offers is available for streaming, the sheer level of choice is still quite staggering. And though Hulu isn’t available in Canada, I’ve managed to enjoy it in the past using VPN tunneling applications to fool it into thinking I’m in the U.S. The abundant content and simplicity of the platform made it easy to enjoy so much content, especially shows from the past. And now that high-definition viewing is part of the mix, the possibilities continue to grow.

With ballooning cable and satellite bills, the temptation to try services like these will only grow, especially since broadband speeds will surely continue to improve. The problem is that this is largely true of large urban centres in the country. there are still pockets of rural Canada that either have to resort to dial-up (yes, dial-up) or satellite Internet — or worse yet — aren’t able to gain access at all. The 3G Internet sticks showed promise, but are restricted to areas with 3G access. And those options aren’t enough to be able to stream high-quality content to big flat-panel TVs.

Also, Netflix won’t be offering its mail-order movie service in Canada, which means competitors like Zip.ca can feel a little bit safer. but Zip had announced plans to start a streaming service too some time ago. What might happen with that now? And what about Rogers and its On Demand Online service? The level of choice currently pales in comparison to what Netflix can offer on a rainy day. even Apple’s iTunes Store offers the ability to rent and buy films, but the ecosystem is too closed for some. plus, Apple has seemed disinterested in pushing the Apple TV set top box to be more than it already is. You can even rent and stream movies from your Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Services like these are popping up everywhere, it seems.

The demise of the brick-and-mortar video store, like Blockbuster, has been proclaimed by pundits for years, but stores are still running. Much like music stores, video stores could be doomed unless they diversify their business models to sell more than just DVDs, Blu-ray discs and video games. This isn’t to suggest that Netflix will have begun a revolution here once it launches. It’s been premature to suggest that music stores, video stores and bookstores will die out quickly because of the Internet’s ability to deliver content quickly and effectively from within consumers’ homes.

Needless to say, Blockbuster and other video stores still operate in the U.S., despite Netflix having offered its streaming service for at least a couple of years. The same trend is likely to continue here, particularly since those who love Blu-ray won’t find Netflix’s 720p streams acceptable enough. For the moment, getting Blu-ray content essentially means going to a video store or using online services to buy or rent titles. in addition, video stores may be limited in how much they can carry in each location, but they aren’t really hindered by licensing deals. We’ll see if this becomes an issue for Netflix’s entry into Canada.

In a curious move, Netflix has blacked out its American site to those in Canada. try going to Netflix.com from Canada, and you’re redirected to Netflix.ca. You can type in your email to get updates on progress, but that’s about it. No list of what will be available, what pricing structure will look like and any other information of real value.

Time will tell how the implementation goes, but rest assured, the first week Netflix is up and running will say a lot about where it might be able to take Canadians.

What will Netflix mean to Canadian viewing habits? | WYT …

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