Netflix is a video-rental company that offers both physical disc rentals and streaming video-on-demand service.
Regarding physical disc rentals, Netflix offers several monthly service plans: For $7.99/month, you can rent unlimited DVDs, receiving only one disc at a time in the mail. Once you return that disc, Netflix will send you the next DVD on your list. For $11.99/month, you can receive two discs at a time, and for $15.99/month you can receive three discs at a time. If you prefer Blu-ray discs, the entry-level plan is $9.99/month, the mid-level plan is $14.99/month, and the top plan is $19.99/month. Netflix also offers one "limited" plan: For $4.99 (DVD) or $5.99 (Blu-ray) per month, you can rent one disc at a time, a maximum of two discs per month.
Regarding streaming video-on-demand, Netflix offers just one plan: $7.99/month for unlimited streaming of any titles in the Netflix streaming catalog. You can access Netflix streaming via a Web browser on your computer or via the Netflix app that's available on pretty much every networkable A/V product with a Web platform, including smart HDTVs, Blu-ray players, and standalone streaming media players like the Apple TV and Roku 2. Free iOS/Android apps are also available to watch Netflix on your smartphone or tablet.
Netflix's streaming catalog is not as large as Netflix's disc catalog, and it does not include immediate access to new, big-ticket home-video releases that you can rent through pay-per-use services like Redbox, Blockbuster, iTunes, and VUDU. The Netflix streaming catalog includes both movies and TV shows, and Netflix has begun to produce its own exclusive programming - shows and movies that only Netflix subscribers can watch. Netflix-produced shows include the revival of Fox's Arrested Development, Lilyhammer, and House of Cards. The Netflix interface includes a Just for Kids section where you can only access children- and family-friendly content.
Netflix offers many (but not all) streamed titles in high-definition and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. To stream the service, you need high-speed Internet access; Netflix recommends a speed of at least 3 Mbps for DVD quality and 5 Mbps for HD quality. In early 2013, Netflix launched its Super HD service, which allows for improved 1080p quality and 3D streaming. The company recommends an Internet speed of 7 Mbps for Super HD 1080p and 12 Mbps for 3D. Super HD does not cost extra, but it's currently only available on certain devices and only for users whose Internet Service Provider (ISP) utilizes Netflix's own Open Connect content-delivery network. You can find out if your ISP uses Open Connect here.
Netflix has found great success with the videogame market. It is available on Nintendo's Wii, Wii U, the Xbox 360 and Xbox One and the Playstation 3 and 4. It works the same as using a computer browser with streaming content available on-the-fly.
Netflix's main competitors in the subscription streaming-video category are the Amazon Instant Video Service and the Hulu Plus service. Amazon Instant Video includes movies and TV shows and is offered free to Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime costs $79/year (no monthly option is available) and includes unlimited streaming of Amazon Instant Video content, free Kindle rentals, and free two-day shipping on all Amazon purchases. Hulu Plus is $7.99/month and offers some movies, but the service's primary focus is on TV content.
HomeTheaterReview.com's Netflix coverage includes:
Netflix Given Direct Access to Comcast
Netflix's Disney deal
Netflix's new Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack option
An Insiders Guide to DVD/Blu-ray Rental Services like Netflix, Blockbuster, and Redbox
The TV Industry's fears about Netflix
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