Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) may beg to differ with those who lament that there is nothing good on television. The DVD-rental specialist is teaming up with Korea's LG Electronics to provide digital delivery of select films directly to LG-powered high-definition televisions.
Netflix has been dabbling in digital delivery since January of last year. However, the existing Watch Now service is tethered to Web-browsing -- and non-Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) -- computers. The new offering nails the last mile in digital delivery by streaming celluloid right into the viewer-friendly living room setting.
Still not impressed? Probably not. Cable companies like Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) have been delivering on-demand flicks for years. Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Unbox service beams films right into TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) recorders, and it hasn't turned a lot of heads.
So why is the presence of Netflix here such a big deal? Well, did I mention that Netflix is including the direct-delivery offering for free to existing subscribers? It's not perfect. Less than 10% of the Netflix library is available with the existing Watch Now service. And providers like Comcast also offer a wide variety of free on-demand content.
That could be why LG may be a bigger winner here than Netflix. LG -- or any future Netflix partner -- has the benefit of providing incremental value to the 7 million existing Netflix subscribers looking to upgrade their home theater systems.
If instant gratification becomes the norm, what becomes of the original Netflix model and its fleeting fleet of distribution centers? The playing field will be level, and that's not a good thing for Netflix.
The move raises the bar for Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI ) as well as Apple's iTunes flick rental initiatives. More importantly, it gets Netflix back in the news. With the official announcement of Apple delivering film rentals from 20th Century Fox now just days away, investors will question the digital delivery strategy of old-school mailbox loiterers like Netflix and Blockbuster's Total Access.
Teaming up with LG is a pre-emptive response. It's going to be a great fight for market superiority, so who says there's nothing good on TV?