Could Netflix be about to launch a set-top box?
Dave Zatz over at Zatz Not Funny thinks so, after the movie rental company that’s best known for putting DVDs in the post, updated its trademark filling to explicitly reference a set-top box that can download and deliver video content from the Internet directly to a television.
Zatz notes that this isn’t first time that talk of a Netflix set-top box has surfaced, which begin last April with the recruitment of Anthony Wood to the newly created position of VP of Internet TV. According to the press release issued at the time, Wood would be “responsible for all aspects of product development related to the company’s strategic intent to deliver movies directly to subscribers’ televisions via the Internet.” Prior to joining Neflix, Wood was CEO of Roku, the company behind the SoundBridge line of audio streaming devices, and before that he was founder of ReplayTV — no less — credited with being the creator of the digital video recorder (DVR). In other words, Wood has some serious hardware pedigree.
In late June, Engadget said they’d received a tip-off from somebody claiming to have attended a focus group where they were asked to test a Netflix set-top box, which was to carry a price of between $50-100.
However, when Variety ran a story the following month based on a quote from Netflix VP of original programming Eric Besner, which appeared to confirm a set-top box was in the works, a Netflix spokesperson was quick to shoot down the report.
The company has, however, confirmed that it is investing $5 to 10 million this year in developing its approach to online movie delivery.
Adding it all up: Woods appointment, the R&D budget, an updated trademark application, along with the unconfirmed Engadget and Variety reports, it looks almost certain that Netflix is about enter into the set-top box arena.
If or when this happens, where will it leave Vudu (see our full review), the latest and most hyped service that delivers online movie rentals directly to a dedicated set-top box connected to a television.
Based on a couple of assumptions, in a pretty poor position.
While Vudu appears to have the technology (aside from a lack of WiFi, the Vudu hardware, UI and delivery infrastructure is sound), it’s lacking in terms of content (missing many major releases) and price-point. The box itself costs nearly $400 and rentals work out more expensive than a Netflix or Blockbuster account.
In contrast, if Netflix can get the box down into the $100 price zone (subsidized by a minimum membership contract), keep to its current pricing model and offer the same wide ranging catalog of content as it does for its postal service, it could be the first set-top box movie rental service to really takeoff.
Of course, they are quite a few ifs.