I was surprised this morning to see that the new "Watch Now" service from Netflix was enabled for my account. The "Watch Now" page had previously shown just a "coming soon" graphic... but this morning it had a "Get Started" link and the main UI tabs at the top of the screen included a "Watch Now" tab. While I know the service has been met with skepticism, I've been looking forward to it for a few reasons:
- Our movie tastes are widely varied at home. From action movies to chick flicks to kid flicks... with Watch Now, I'm thinking we can worry a little less about the variety of our three at-home discs.
- I often watch discs late at night once I've gone to bed... depending on how tired I am, it sometimes takes a few nights to get through a movie. With this service, I can send a movie back if I know there's only 10-15 minutes left and just catch the end of it over the wire.
- We've had a few cracked/scratched discs that had to be sent. In over four years with Netflix, we went for three years without a problem... but have had several in the last few months. It's bound to happen, but this service means that we might be able to save the day if that kids movie is scratched and there's (yet another) snow storm going on outside. These last few months have also been the only time I've been tempted by Blockbuster's rent-by-mail service. Being able to take a bad disc to a local store and swap it for a good one is pretty appealing.
- I like the idea of previewing some movies in advance to see if they're worth adding to the queue.
- It's a free addition to what we're already getting. Free's good.
Netflix provides one hour of "Watch Now" viewing for every dollar spent on monthly fees. Since we're on the standard "3 movies at a time" plan, that's about 18 hours of viewing over the wire -- more than enough for us. Watching movies on the computer isn't likely to replace the television experience anytime soon, but as a free addition to our service, it's certainly a welcome feature.
So far, it looks like the list of movies is fairly basic... there aren't many of the newest movies available on the list, but there are enough to give it a shot. The "Watch Now" section has a "Top 25" list and the top five movies on that list (as of this morning) are:
- Born into Brothels -- A good documentary, but depressing.
- Super Size Me -- If your kids can't pass the golden arches without convulsing for a Happy Meal, have them watch this with you. It'll cure them.
- The World's Fastest Indian -- A cute movie that was better than we expected. Also decent a decent one to watch with kids.
- The Motorcycle Diaries
Going to the movie page for a title that's "Watch Now" enabled will display two buttons -- both the "Add" button you're used to seeing for adding it to your queue and a "Play" button to start playback in the downloadable player. Looks like it works only with Windows XP and Internet Explorer.
While I've not yet gone through the full playback experience, I did notice that the main "Watch Now" page provides feedback on your current expected video quality... I was several rooms away from our 802.11g router, but had a decent signal and was showing "Good".
More to come once we've downloaded the player and watched a few titles.
Note: Looks like Netflix has also lowered their most basic "1-out" plan to just $4.99 a month.