Netflix Player to Deliver Online Video

Movie-rental firm teams up with Roku on $99.99 set-top device

Online-movie-rental firm Netflix introduced a set-top device that will allow movies and TV shows delivered by its online-streaming service to be viewed directly on a living-room TV and that will sell for $99.99.

The Netflix Player, made by Saratoga, Calif.-based Roku, is the latest in a range of "media-extender" devices from companies like Apple and Hewlett-Packard that serve as a bridge between Internet video and the traditional TV-viewing experience.

The Netflix Player doesn't store video, like Apple's $229 Apple TV box, but instead facilitates the viewing of streaming video from Netflix's online service. Netflix subscribers with a minimum package of $8.99 per month get unlimited access to movies and TV shows, although the selection is somewhat limited and dominated by older titles.

The Netflix Player connects to the Internet via an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection and connects to a TV through standard video and audio connections to deliver DVD-quality (480p) video.

The set-top also has an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) connection to support HD video, which Netflix said it will deliver online in the future. (Netflix previously announced plans to offer a similar set-top device manufactured by LG Electronics.)

It remains to be seen how the device will play with consumers, who may balk at adding another box to any already cluttered living rooms.

Meanwhile, cable operators have dramatically expanded their video-on-demand offerings, adding more primetime shows and HD content; Comcast, for one, announced at last week's Cable Show that it now offers 500 movies and TV shows on-demand in HD and will provide 1,000 by year-end.