Netflix and Lovefilm battle for UK market

US video streaming service Netflix began its attempt to take over the UK market yesterday, ruffling the feathers of home competitors such as Lovefilm and Sky Movies.

British customers can pay £5.99 per month for unlimited access to Netflix’s online emporium of films and TV programmes that can be streamed on a range of gadgets including PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii, as well as through Android and Apple operated devices.

Netflix, which has more than 20m subscribers across 47 countries, last week reported that its members tallied up over 2bn hours of online streaming in the fourth quarter of 2011.

This came after a worrying third quarter in which up to a million Netflix subscribers cancelled their subscriptions due to hiked fees, bringing the company’s market value down from over $15bn to $4bn (£9.7bn to £2.6bn) and causing shares to plunge a record 35 per cent.

Netflix co-founder and chief executive Reed Hastings said yesterday: “We are starting 2012 in the best possible way: by giving consumers in the UK and Ireland an amazing entertainment experience.

“Now, you can enjoy as many great films and TV programmes as you want, when you want, where you want, for one low monthly price with no contracts or commitments.”

However, Amazon-owned movie streaming service Lovefilm refused to be beaten, yesterday announcing a step away from its traditional DVD-rental service with an unlimited streaming-only package for £4.99 per month – beating Netflix’s price by £1.

It also took the opportunity to reveal reaching a subscriber base of 2m people in the UK due to hundreds of thousands of new recruits in the fourth quarter of last year – the fastest customer growth rate at Lovefilm since 2009.

Simon Calver, chief executive of Lovefilm, said: “We offer customers an unparalleled range of titles, including exclusively available blockbusters. Our 2m members can look forward to us adding even more world class content, in a variety of formats, to be delivered across an ever expanding range of digital platforms.”

BSkyB also announced yesterday its 10 per cent investment in TV-watching social network Zeebox which will allow customers to connect with other viewers, find information and shop online easily.

Netflix shares jumped 13.8 per cent to $98.18 in yesterday’s trading, and continued rising after-hours.