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Netflix eyeing stream-only service in the US

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(Read caption) Netflix could open a streaming-only service in coming months. That would be music to the ears of owners of the Apple iPad, pictured at left.

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Earlier this month, Netflix began offering stream-only service – at a rate of $7.99 a month – to consumers north of the border. No discs. No red envelopes. Just online movies and TV shows. Analysts have billed this Canadian expansion as a kind of test run for Netflix, which was previously offering streaming video exclusively in the US.

"The company will determine whether or not there's opportunity for other countries based on its Canadian performance," notes ReadWriteWeb's Sarah Perez, who participated in a conference call with Netflix execs.

Now Netflix CEO Reed Hasting is hinting that a wider roll-out of streaming service could happen by soon as the end of this year. "We are looking at adding a streaming-only option for the USA over the coming months," Hasting wrote in a blog post today.

At this point it's worth noting that US consumers can currently pay $8.99 a month for a DVD-by-mail option – an option which also includes unlimited streaming video. In other words, the difference between the Canadian plan and the current cheapest US plan is only one dollar. And plenty of people – like this humble Horizons blogger – use the DVD-by-mail plan AS a streaming-only plan. How do we do that?

Well, we just don't bother requesting DVDs and do our all our Netflix viewing online. (Anyone else out there in our boat?)

As we recently noted, Netflix has faced heightened competition from other online services.

HBO, for instance, has launched its own subscription streaming platform called HBO GO, and Hulu has begun offering premium content under the aegis of Hulu Plus. This spring, partially in an effort to stay ahead of rivals such as Hulu, Netflix announced it had reached a deal that would delay the availability of new releases from Universal and Twentieth Century Fox for at least a month after the official DVD release date.

In exchange, Fox and Universal agreed to provide more content to Netflix.


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