Anyone who still thinks Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN ) Instant Video and Hulu Plus have substantially eroded Netflix's (NASDAQ: NFLX ) content distribution advantage got a rude awakening this weekend. The streaming sensation was first get its service ready for Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY ) new Wii U console.
Surprised? I can't blame you. Last week, Nintendo said its TVii service -- designed to control not only live TV but also TiVo (NASDAQ: TIVO ) boxes for digital video recording -- wouldn't be available on the console. Streaming services were to be similarly delayed. Netflix chose not to comply, and for good reason.
Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube have little to lose by waiting because they're backed by diversified entities. Not so with Netflix, which, according to AllThingsD, accounts for more than twice as much streaming traffic as YouTube, 19 times as much as Amazon's Instant Video, and 30 times as much as Hulu. Being present on many devices with an easy-to-navigate app feeds that advantage, which is why its early arrival on the Wii U matters.
At the very least, it means Netflix will have weeks to get the new console's users tuned into its own channel before competitors arrive. Expect them to do exactly that, repeating a pattern we've seen often enough to make Netflix the most chosen name in streaming in spite of alternatives.
Yet even with this win it's important to understand that the Netflix story is still evolving, and key questions about its future remain. The biggest: whether the company's international aspirations create the sort of opportunity CEO Hastings wants us to believe it does.
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