Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has put the video store no further away than your mailbox, but are digital video recorders about to bring the video store even closer, even faster? Perhaps so: DirecTV (NYSE:DTV) says that it plans a broadband video service that ups the ante in video content distribution.

Satellite TV provider DirecTV, which is partially owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), has announced that it will provide a video downloading service along with its premium DVR service. Although DirecTV won't offer the broadband Internet connection that will be necessary to use the service, an article in The Wall Street Journal said that 5 million of DirecTV's customers already have broadband service anyway.

Through the service, DirecTV users will be able to order videos through their DVRs, or through a website. Granted, people will have to wait to pop the popcorn, since it will take some time for the videos to download to their DVRs for viewing -- apparently the videos will be fully downloaded later that day, or even the following day. DirecTV will offer a library of 2,000 videos for users to choose from.

The big-name cable operators like Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) increasingly provide on-demand services these days -- it seems that most have several thousand pieces of content available, with an emphasis on providing new releases for a fee. DirecTV's service is different because it provides content over broadband connections. There are two companies that I can imagine might have a good deal to fear, should services like this one increase in breadth and scope.

For those of us who have watched TiVo over the years, it's hard to think of DirecTV without thinking about TiVo's lucrative deal with the satellite TV provider -- a deal that will end in 2007. When rumors floated that TiVo and Netflix were in talks to develop a video downloading service together, many of us likely imagined that these were going to be the two companies to bring just such a service to the mainstream. That the deal never reached fruition is one reason why I consider TiVo a big disappointment here lately. TiVo really needed to bring something like this new DirecTV service to market, and here it is, beaten to the punch.

Meanwhile, I can see how this type of service could pose a threat to Netflix ... well, eventually, anyway. Netflix may be showing Blockbuster (NYSE:BBI) who's boss, but that's no guarantee it will be safe if cable providers are ever able to offer larger libraries on demand to DVRs. At the moment, of course, DirecTV's offering pales in comparison with the variety available through Netflix, whose library is stocked with 55,000 titles. What's more, its recommendations and Netflix Friends systems have helped its customers make the most of that huge library. That does provide some insurance for the time being. Meanwhile, pricing will undoubtedly have a part to play in what consumers choose when it comes to video entertainment.

One thing is certain: Methods of video content distribution are changing rapidly, and all of the players are going to have to stay on their toes as they vie for consumers' attention -- and dollars.

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TiVo and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. To find out what other companies David and Tom Gardner have recommended for the service, try Stock Advisor free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.