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Netflix down for at least five hours

Customer service people are informing customers that something occurred during a routine maintenance that brought down site. They have no idea when site will be back up.

Updated at 4:00 p.m. PDT: We have posted a completely new story here that details how Netflix will be forced to delay deliveries.

Internet movie rental company Netflix suffered a site outage beginning at 7 a.m. PDT Monday, and the company doesn't know when it will have the problem fixed, a Netflix spokesman said.

Customer service personnel told CNET that they were told the site was undergoing routine maintenance when something went wrong, information they then passed on to customers. That is incorrect, according to Steve Swasey, the company's director of corporate communications. He said he couldn't discuss the causes but that it had nothing to do with site maintenance.

"Our engineers have been feverishly working on repairing the problem all morning," Swasey said. "It was an unanticipated, unplanned outage and we apologize to our customers."

Site outages are typically no big deal as any company can suffer one. But a blackout that lasts for more than an hour is rare, and one spanning several hours is rarer still.

Netflix, which has 7 million subscribers, continued to ship DVDs after the outage began, though its unclear whether the problem will eventually affect the company's entire database, Swasey said. This means it's possible that users might see some delays in receiving movies. He added that customers needn't worry about their stored movie picks. None of their information will be lost.

This is one of the few setbacks suffered by Netflix in the past year. Since October, the company's shares have doubled in price. In midday trading, Netflix was trading at about $38. The company's site also went down for an extended period last July. The cause was never disclosed.