Netflix’s ambitious Internet TV plans are forging ahead, with three new set-top box partners to integrate the company’s ‘Watch Now’ video streaming service into their products by the end of year. The company has previously announced a partnership with Korean manufacturer LG Electronics to stream movies, TV shows, and other content to LG high-definition televisions or set-top boxes by the second half of 2008.
During the company’s Q1 earnings conference call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told analysts:
“We have LG plus three additional partners actively working on integrating our technology into their products… Three of the four partners are major companies, which each sell millions of devices per year and will enable the Netflix functionality in some of those devices likely in the fourth quarter of this year. The fourth partner is a small company, which will likely launch sooner than Q4.”
So who might these three additional hardware partners be?
Reed has, on a number of occasions, gone on record talking up Netfllix’s ambitions to get its Internet TV service onto all manner of hardware including next generation games consoles, along with networked DVD players and other set-top boxes or Internet-connected televisions.
More specifically, in February there were reports that the company was conducting market research relating to its ‘Watch Now’ service being offered on Microsoft’s XBox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 — although, as we noted at the time, it’s unlikely that either company would want to enter into an agreement with Netflix. Microsoft already has a competing Internet TV service of its own with the XBox Live Marketplace, and Sony has plans to launch something similar. Instead, it’s our bet that we’ll see Netflix compatibility added to a number of media streamers, such as those produced by D-Link and KISS (Linksys). Other likely contenders are Internet-connected televisions from Sharp or Samsung, and as an outside possibility TiVo, but again, the company already supports a competing service in Amazon’s UnBox.