So a few days ago, my TiVo hard drive crashed. Since it also acts as a digital cable box, I basically have not watched TV since Tuesday. It's a somewhat weird feeling but what I'm beginning to find is that television may not be quite as necessary to my daily life as I once thought. With Hulu.com, I basically get to watch all of the shows I usually watch anyway (House, Chuck, Heroes, 30 Rock, Family Guy, etc). I hit ESPN.com for my Sportscenter highlights and with video on all the major news networks, I pretty much get the rest. One thing I will miss is the ability to channel surf. You never know when Commando or Batman Begins is playing. Then again, if I didn't watch the same shows or movies for the hundredth time, I'd probably have more time to do other stuff.
Don't get me wrong. When the new hard drive arrives in a few days, I'll be back to my happy TV watching self. It's just a nice change of pace to not have the TV on pretty much every waking hour when I'm at home.
Netflix and TiVo had announced they were launching their streaming service over 4 years ago but it finally hit mainstream today. Check it out here. As a long time customer of both services, I was hoping for something like this to happen years ago. TiVo's CEO, Mike Ramsay, sat on Netflix's board for a long time (he no longer does) and both companies have been close even before their announcement in 2006. I'm not sure if it was a technology issue or a studio permissions that prevented them from moving forward but it was well worth the wait.
Overall, I'm very impressed with the service. First, as a Netflix and TiVo subscriber, there's no additional costs. We pay $12.95 for TiVo service and $9.78 for Netflix service each month. I always felt the Netflix fee was well justified but never was happy paying $12.95 for channel listings from TiVo. But now for about $23 a month, I get access to unlimited DVD rentals, unlimited movie streaming, AND TiVo service - a much better value than before. Second, the quality is a lot better than I expected. Most of the movies stream in standard definition. Not great since I've been spoiled by HD video but far from the choppy fair you'd expect from online video. As for the HD streams, those come through remarkably clear. I'm actually quite amazed at the quality of the video coming from a streaming service. It's about the same quality as movies on any of my HD channels. Unfortunately, there are only about 400 HD movies available versus the thousands available in standard definition. Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer of Netflix, provides a great breakdown of the quality and limitations of the current service. Hopefully, bandwidth speeds in the next few years will increase enough for full 1080p streams.