Blockbusters at the touch of a button

NETFLIX, the US online film service, announced on Monday that it will be launching in the UK in 2012. The company looks set to change the way we watch movies, but already has some tough competition. Here we tell you everything you need to know.

What is Netflix?
Netflix is an online film service that can stream straight to your TV and mobile devices. It was originally founded in 1997 as a postal film service, from which customers could rent DVDs for a monthly fee. It started streaming films over the internet in 2007, and the company is now market leader with over 25m members. For the UK, the website claims that Netflix will offer “as many films and TV episodes as you want” instantly over the internet. It’s unlikely that it will launch the DVD rentals over here – since that area is already dominated by Amazon’s Lovefilm.

How does streaming work?
Streaming means that you can watch the films and TV programmes in real time over the internet. This means that there’s no need to download files onto your computer or device in order to watch later and you can watch your film instantly. It’s essential that you have an internet connection and an internet-ready device that Netflix is compatible with.

What devices will support it?
Gamers will be happy – predictions are that you’ll be able to stream Netflix via the Wii, Xbox, 360 and PS3 as well as set-top boxes such as Apple TV, and enabled TVs from Philips, Samsung and Vizio. When Google TV was launched in 2010, it had a built-in application for Netflix streaming. Mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and more recently, some Android phones, support a Netflix app.

What are the benefits?
You will be able to watch films instantly, and pause and restart at will. Recent reports indicate that Netflix has been aggressive in negotiating for film rights. For its customers, this may mean access to the latest films and a wide variety of blockbusters, old and new.

How much is it?
Netflix hasn’t released details of its price plans, but its website says that customers will pay a monthly fee for the film service. In the US, Netflix lost 800,000 US subscribers in the last quarter due to a price hike, but it has kept the price and currently charges $7.99 per month for unlimited access. There are rumours that the UK price may be set at £5 per month, which would be very competitive (Lovefilm’s cheapest package is £5.99 for 2 hours of streaming and 3 discs a month).

What other options are available at the moment?
Lovefilm is the closest competitor and has a loyal following in the UK. It not only offers physical DVDs, Blu-rays and video game rentals, but also streams films and TV programmes. It is also built into Smart TV systems (Sony and Samsung), Sony Playstation 3 and PCs. Other film rental options are from Apple iTunes (from any device that runs iTunes), and Acetrax (through Panasonic, LG and Samsung TVs). YouTube will also be launching its film streaming service via the YouTube channel.

What about TV on-demand?
Broadcasters and Cable TV providers including Sky, Virgin and BT are increasingly offering on-demand services. PictureBox is a subscription service owned by NBC Universal, and FilmFlex – part of Virgin Media’s on demand service and a joint venture between Sony and Disney – is constantly updated with blockbusters and it has a library of over 1,000 films. Sky Anytime is an on-demand service that holds 500 movies at any one time. Those who subscribe to the Sky Movies channels get it free. BT’s effort is Film Club which has films from Picturebox and Warner, Sony and Film 4.

What can you do now?
Registration for Netflix has opened for those interested. Visit