When you think of Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) , does your mind's eye see a DVD-mailing service or an online video site?
If you are like most Netflix subscribers, you'll see a little bit of both. But the DVD and Blu-ray disc portion of the service will become an afterthought within the next couple of years.
According to data from FeedFliks, a third-party service that uses public programming interfaces from Netflix to help subscribers calculate their average cost per rental among other things, Instant Watch views already outnumber DVD shipments and will grow even more in 2010.
The FeedFliks data is based on that service's user data, which is admittedly a small subset. In addition, the kind of people who sign up for third-party online applications to juice the value of their Netflix subscription seem like a likely early adopter crowd of bargain hunters, so streaming could very well be over-represented here. (According to FeedFliks, I pay $1.32 per rental. Yeah, I'm a cheap nerd.)
Still, Netflix management says that 48% of its customer base watched at least 15 minutes of streaming Netflix media last quarter, up from 42% the previous quarter. At the same time, Netflix added over 1 million net new subscribers. In other words, there is no doubt that streaming is an important part of the Netflix experience for many users already. Since Netflix drops you onto the Watch Instantly homepage every time you pop in to update your DVD queue, the growth should not be surprising.
And there's much more to come as the addressable market for streaming views continues to flourish. Personally, I plan to do more streaming when the Netflix disc for my Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) Wii drops in, which should be any day now. It's getting harder to find a TV set or Blu-ray player that doesn't support Netflix streaming these days. The Wii completes the hat trick of modern video game consoles since the Sony (NYSE: SNE ) PS3 and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Xbox 360 already handle the service, and every recent TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) box is on board as well.
Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI ) is fighting for survival and dipping its badly burned toes into the streaming waters, but it may be too little, too late.
For Netflix, the future is already here -- and the company is pushing hard to keep the instant video hits coming, courtesy of a cut-rate delivery deal with Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM ) . The rest of the field is playing catch-up.