Why Sony should add Netflix to the PS3 now

Sony may be busy promoting its PlayStation Network service and all that it offers, but the feature a lot of PS3 owners are looking for is support for Netflix video streaming.

Netflix's consumer survey has brought hope to PS3 owners with Netflix subscriptions. Engadget

In recent days, rumors have been percolating about the PlayStation 3 getting Netflix streaming video support. Most of the rumors revolve around a survey that Netflix has out gauging user interest in adding its service to Sony's game console for a fee. No one seems to know whether Netflix or Sony commissioned the survey, but either way, it's certainly raised hopes with PS3 owners that they would get something that Xbox 360 owners have had for a while . (For what it's worth, nearly identical rumors of Netflix on the Wii have also been making the rounds.)

Interestingly, as the rumors make their way around the blogosphere, Sony's been trying to promote how robust its Playstation Network Service (PSN) is and how great a media extender the PS3 is. A few weeks ago, a few of us from CNET spent some time visiting with Sony PR and marketing reps in a hotel suite going over what PSN had to offer, including Home , Sony's online virtual community that's hit 5 million registered users. And just yesterday, I got a voice mail from a PR rep encouraging me to do a story on what a great media extender the PS3 is.

I said I'd do a story--but only in context of the Netflix rumors.

"Why doesn't Sony just add Netflix?" I asked.

Of course, I knew it wasn't as simple as that. Sony's been diligently building out its own video service on PSN--and doing a pretty good job of it. As the PR rep pointed out, you can now download 1,500 movies and 5,200 TV episodes from all the major studios. The only problem is that if you're a Netflix subscriber, there's little incentive to use it. (On the PS3, you can buy or rent movies and shows, with prices ranging from $1.99 to $5.99 for rentals, depending on release date or whether you're downloading standard-definition or HD versions).

I get the whole promotion of the video store. However, what struck me as a little odd is how Sony's also pushing "free" elements of the PS3 at the same time--most notably, the fact that you can use the PS3 as a media extender (it's a good one, arguably superior to the Xbox 360) to pull content off your computer in another room and stream it to a PS3 connected to a TV somewhere else in your house. Sony doesn't care where you got that content; it just wants you to know that the PS3 works well as an extender. It also wants you to know that you can use the PS3's browser to go to sites like Hulu.com, YouTube, and TV.com, which happens to be owned by CNET's parent company, CBS, and watch all the free streaming video you want.

The PR rep suggested that once you toss in the PS3's built-in Blu-ray player, you've got a do-it-all box that can potentially allow you to drop your cable or satellite provider and save real dough.

OK, I said, but you're still missing one thing.

"Some new Blu-ray players have Netflix streaming support," I said, referring to Samsung and LG, which both have Blu-ray players that do Netflix. "Why not just add it to the PS3?"

Again, it's not that simple, but I figured if I kept asking the question I might get an answer.

"Sony does not comment on rumors," the rep said.

Fine, I said. And I expressed that I totally understood that the situation on the PS3 was different from that of the Xbox 360. The fact is Microsoft doesn't exactly give away Netflix streaming support. You have to own an Xbox Live Gold subscription, which costs up to $50 a year, to access the Netflix Xbox 360 application. Sony doesn't have a tiered online subscription system; it's all free. So the whole concept of a $9.99 Instant Streaming Disc (or download) seems like a perfect solution (by comparison, the Roku Netflix box costs $100, so $10 would be a bargain).

The rep emailed me back.

"David, as I said, we do not comment on rumors or speculation. That said, I do have an approved quote about PSN that you can use in your story."

The quote was from Patrick Seybold, Director of Corporate Communications, SCEA. Here's what Mr. Seybold had to say:

"While we are always looking for ways to enhance our video entertainment through PlayStation 3, we are currently focusing on expanding video downloading through PlayStation Store, Blu-ray movie playback and streaming video through PS3's built-in Internet browser. Our video delivery service is a great example of how we are providing current and relevant movies and TV shows through new partners like MTV, Comedy Central, Spike TV, NBC, Universal Pictures, Nickelodeon and VH1."

Read into it what you will. I think Sony support for Netflix video streaming is coming. I just wish it was now.

As always, feel free to add your own two cents. How much would you be willing to pay for Netflix streaming support? And are you ready to drop your cable or satellite provider if it's added?

 

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