- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Netflix makes it easier

Netflix Inc. has come up with another way to get movies to people without sending DVDs in the mail.

In a partnership announced Monday, LG Electronics will start selling high-definition TV sets that stream Netflix videos directly from the Internet without an additional device. The deal marks the first time Netflix’s streaming service will be embedded in a television, Associated Press reports.

Netflix, still best known for its online DVD rental service, offers about 12,000 movies and TV shows for instant streaming over the Internet for no additional cost to subscribers who pay at least $9 per month for a DVD rental plan.

Those streamed movies can be watched on a computer or sent to a TV through an increasing number of devices, including a $100 unit made by Silicon Valley start-up Roku Inc. Other partnerships enable Netflix to pump its video library to TVs through Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 video-game consoles or recorders made by TiVo Inc. LG and Samsung Electronics Co. also sell Blu-ray DVD players compatible with the streaming service.

Also on Monday, Amazon.com Inc. said it is making its video-streaming service available on the Roku player. The service offers about 40,000 movies and TV shows, including titles not currently available through Netflix streaming on Roku, such as “Pineapple Express.”

Piping movies directly to TV sets is the natural evolution of the video-streaming service, said Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix.

“The TV symbolizes the ultimate destination,” he said.

That idea - shared by Sony Corp., which already streams feature films and TV shows directly to its Bravia televisions - is still in its early stages. Netflix’s streaming service taps a library of 12,000 titles, while the company’s DVD menu numbers more than 100,000 titles.

Mr. Hastings says he expects that gap will “definitely narrow” over time, but he notes that DVDs maintain an advantage over streaming, which is that “they are very profitable” for film studios.

Tim Alessi, director of product development for LG Electronics USA, said the broadband TVs will sell for roughly $200 to $300 more than a regular HDTV set.

More ‘Damages’ set

BBC1 has picked up rights to the second series of the legal thriller “Damages,” which proved a surprise hit.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the network will air season two of the Glenn Close starrer, which sees Oscar winners William Hurt (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”) and Marcia Gay Harden (“Pollack”) join the 13-part season.

The Sony-distributed show is also available on the iPlayer, the BBC’s interactive seven-day catch-up service.

The critically acclaimed drama earned audiences averaging 2 million viewers when it aired in the 10:35 p.m. slot on Mondays. It premieres on BBC1 Wednesday and the same night at 10 p.m. on its U.S. originator, FX.

‘Seinfeld’ in HD

In conjunction with its now-typical big splash at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) will announce it is making the syndicated comedy “Seinfeld” available to broadcast stations in high definition for the first time.

HD episodes of the long-running sitcom will be ready to air on stations beginning Jan. 26.

Sony will back the move to HD with a massive promotional push featuring new digitally enhanced HD promos. Sony will supply stations with four episodic hi-def promos for each of the 180 episodes, or 720 in all. SPT also has created a complete HD graphics package it will supply to stations to assist them in creating their own local promos, as well as sales presentations.

Actor John O’Hurley, who played J. Peterman on the show, has voiced some of the promos. This marks the fourth set of episodic promotions in all for “Seinfeld” but the first in HD.

On tap tonight…

- Homeland Security (8 p.m., ABC) - The series premiere of the docudrama, which chronicles the daily exploits of Department of Homeland Security agents, including the Border Patrol.

- Scrubs (9 and 9:30 p.m., ABC) -The long-running NBC comedy makes the move to the Alphabet network for what’s expected to be its final season. Former “Friends” star Courteney Cox joins the cast for the first two episodes.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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