Netflix breaks down PS3 deal

Q&A: VP Steve Swasey explains how video service works on the PS3; firmware update planned for 2010, will offer same options as PC and Xbox Live streaming.

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After nearly a year of game-console exclusivity on the Xbox 360, Netflix branched out today. This morning, the company announced it was bringing its video streaming service to the PlayStation 3 starting next month.

PS3 owners will need a disc to access Netflix…for now.
PS3 owners will need a disc to access Netflix…for now.

Despite a different interface, the Netflix viewing experience will be essentially the same on the Xbox 360 and PS3, according to Steve Swasey, the company's vice president of corporate communication. However, accessing Netflix from the two consoles will differ. Whereas Netflix is integrated into the Xbox Live dashboard and firmware, accessing the service via the PS3 will require a Blu-ray disc, which contains the required software. (Those wishing to be sent a disc can reserve one on the Netflix site.)

To get more information on Netflix's future on gaming consoles, GameSpot caught up with Swasey, who revealed a few new things about how the service will work on the PS3.

GameSpot: I know you've indicated for several months now you're planning to expand your service onto all three consoles. How long did the PS3 deal take to arrange?

Steve Swasey: Well, Netflix desires to be on all the screens and all the platforms you can watch movies on. However, we don't disclose how long particular projects take. We are excited to announce that we are bringing Netflix to the PS3 in November.

GS: Is there an exact launch date?

SS: Not yet. Just November.

GS: So break down how the process works. You need a special Blu-ray disc to access the service, which you sign up for…

SS: Yeah, you just order a disc, and you'll get it generally the next day.

GS: You're already shipping them out?

SS: No, we'll be shipping them out in November. You keep that disc forever, and you plunk it in the tray and connect to the Internet. That gets you to your instant queue, and you're ready to watch it.

GS: Are there any plans for a firmware update that would add this functionality to the PS3's XrossMediaBar (XMB)?

SS: Yeah, actually we'll have that sometime next year.

GS: OK, so Netflix is obviously mail based, but you're focusing more and more on digital distribution. Are you going to offer a streaming-only subscription plan?

SS: No, it's bundled. You get the DVDs by mail and you get streaming too.

GS: And will the service still offer the same standard- and high-definition titles as it does on the PC and 360?

SS: It's the same thing on all the devices, whether it's a TV, Blu-ray disc player, or game console. The streaming functionality is the same.

GS: Now I know you guys announced earlier in the year that Netflix would be available on Internet-capable Bravia HDTVs. Will there be any kind of special Netflix functionality between the PS3 and such TVs?

SS: No, the streaming functionality goes directly to the devices. They're independent.

GS: In today's announcement, Netflix said it had 11.1 million subscribers and that over 9 million Americans own a PlayStation 3. What's the overlap between the two groups?

SS: I'm sure there is some, but we haven't disclosed that. We haven't broken that out.

GS: Are there any plans to have viewing parties, such as those available through Xbox Live, on the PS3?

SS: That's an Xbox initiative. You'd have to ask the folks at Sony about that [coming to the PS3].

GS: Now I know Sony also makes movies through its Sony Pictures arm. Will there be any kind of Sony-produced streaming content exclusive to the PS3 and Bravia?

SS: You'd have to talk to Sony about that.

GS: So this Sony deal will not affect your arrangement with Microsoft to stream movies on the Xbox 360, correct?

SS: No, we're continuing on the 360.

GS: And do you know how many 360 owners use Netflix currently?

SS: We know, but we don't break it out publically.

GS: Well, I guess the big advantage of streaming Netflix via the PS3 is you don't have to pay a premium membership cost for Xbox Live Gold. Do you know if Netflix will be available to Xbox Live Silver members in the future?

SS: That's a question you'd have to ask Microsoft. We just think they're both great platforms. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Microsoft has since confirmed Xbox Live Gold membership will still be mandatory to access Netflix on the 360.]

GS: So now, with you being on the 360 and PS3, the next question is--when will Netflix be coming to the Wii?

SS: It's a great platform, but there's nothing we've announced. We're continuing to grow both sides of the business, both DVD by mail and instant watching, and it's gratifying to see the market respond.

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