It's just not going to happen, no matter what you hear.
"It's something that's likely to come over time," CEO Reed Hastings told Reuters yesterday, emphasizing that the focus -- for now -- is on TV, Blu-ray players, and video game consoles. "We will get to mobile eventually, including the iPhone."
In other words, this is such a low priority for Netflix that it will happen somewhere between when pigs fly and when hell freezes over.
It doesn't hurt to talk about it, though, because style points are awarded whenever a company mentions some vaporware iPhone app. However, let's get into the reasons you're unlikely to ever stream your digital Netflix queue from your iPhone or iPod touch.
1. It's a lose-lose-lose situation
Streaming on a portable small screen may be cool for iPhone owners, but what's in it for Apple, official carrier AT&T
Apple doesn't want you streaming free celluloid, because it would rather sell you television- show and movie downloads through iTunes. Really.
AT&T doesn't want you taxing its already fragile network with your chunky video files. AT&T won't have a problem restricting the streaming to Wi-Fi -- since it then becomes no longer a matter of surfing on AT&T's dime, through its unlimited-data plan -- but that would also ruin the truly portable nature of the iPhone.
Finally, we have Netflix itself. It has to realize that even diehard movie buffs don't want to spend two hours squinting in front of an iPhone screen. Many will abandon selections midstream, and when they do, the overall Netflix experience is cheapened.
2. All your base are belong to Microsoft
Video-game consoles are a priority at Netflix, but that would mean that its exclusivity with Microsoft's
Since Reed Hastings sits on Microsoft's board of directors, let's hope that Microsoft is compensating Netflix appropriately for the exclusivity rights. We don't know how long Netflix is tethered to Microsoft, but it also doesn't help the chances of an App Store being developed that Apple and Microsoft are mortal enemies.
3. The intimidation of Hollywood
Netflix has been able to license only an eighth of its catalog digitally, because studios are weary of taking a lump-sum payment in exchange for the streams that diminish the perceived value of commercial movie streams.
The major studios with the freshest releases feel that there are greater opportunities in the piecemeal market across a wide variety of viewing platforms. Smartphones are just another outlet for digital sales and rentals, and even those who have already inked deals with Netflix for digital distribution may think twice about coverage across all mediums.
Sony already had an incident last year when it pulled Netflix streams through Xbox Live. That may have been seen as a tactical move against a video-game console competitor in Microsoft, but it still happened.
If there is money to be made in charging users to stream flicks through their iPhones and Palm
In sum, don't hold your breath for Netflix streams on your iPhone.
When do you think we'll see a Netflix application in Apple's App Store? Post your thoughts in the comment box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Netflix shareholder -- and subscriber -- since 2002. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.