Netflix Without the Mailings

Netflix just announced plans to begin dispatching movies straight to televisions through an LG-Electronics-made, Internet-connected set-top box. Netflix distributes most of its content—movies, TV shows and more—the old-fashioned way: through the mail. More than 7 million subscribers take part in one of its many rental plans, sending and receiving DVDs in small square envelopes. Now, thanks to high-speed Internet connections, the company is hoping to quicken the process, and allow customers to rent movies via the Web.

Netflix has already dipped its toes into this arena, but its "Watch Instantly" program hasn't fully caught on, in part because most users had to watch the content on their computers. The LG box will change that, allowing users to watch up to 40 hours of movies and shows per month. The selection isn't as great, but it's still significant. The company's DVD library is 90,000 titles strong, and the online selection currently has more than 6,000 options.

The LG partnership is also just a first step. Netflix plans to sign deals with numerous electronics companies, and transform itself into more of a movie channel than an Internet-age Blockbuster. Will it be the leader in online video rentals? Apple might have something to say about that.—Gregory Mone