Online DVD rental service Netflix and cable TV network Starz teamed up to allow digital streaming of the movie channel's content, but none of it will be in high definition.
That puts the partners solidly in the present majority, as bandwidth issues slow the deployment of true HD content over the Web. Until the country is wired with fiber optics or other technology capable of handling the data load HD puts on networks, consumers will have to be satisfied with lower-resolution images on the Internet.
“I think you could [stream HD content now], but everyone else is on the Internet with you,” Pete Putman, president of Roam Consulting and author of the HDTVExpert.com Web site said.
Set-top boxes, like Vudu, can stream HD content, but they require a consistently fast connection. The box, Mr. Putnam said, also preloads a bit of the streaming content, which allows for a “running start” while downloading the movie during viewing.
Netflix and Starz’ deal, named Starz Play, adds approximately 2,500 titles to the streaming side of Netflix, at no additional charge to current Netflix subscribers. Nearly 1,000 titles are now available, with others to be added to the site at a later date, Netflix said.
Netflix declined to comment on any future plans for an HD streaming service.
Starz said the burden of HD streaming relies not only on Netflix to increase its bandwidth for larger files, but also on whether Starz would be willing to provide the high-definition content.
“We’re not offering anything in HD at this time,” said Eric W. Becker, Starz’s executive director of corporate communications, regarding both the Netflix deal as well as a May agreement with Verizon Communications.
Verizon offers Starz Play to its subscribers for an additional monthly fee of $5.99, but provides the ability to download movie files straight to a computer or mobile device.
Mr. Becker said there hasn’t been enough consumer interest to warrant the investment in HD.
Also included in the streaming package is Starz’s first original series, “Crash,” based on the Oscar-winning film of the same name. Netflix said new episodes will be posted the same day they air on Starz.
Starz President-Chief Operating Officer Bill Myers told Multichannel News that Starz Play is not looking to compete with or replace high-definition or traditional outlets, saying, “The services that we provide cable, satellite and telco are much more robust than Starz Play.”
Mr. Becker added that the service is complementary to standard Starz distribution points.
Users who want to access Starz Play only can subscribe through Netflix for a reduced rate of $7.99 a month.
(Updated 1 p.m. to add first three paragraphs.)