Netflix officially PS3-bound

[UPDATE2] Movie-rental service to begin offering video streaming to all of its subscribers who own a Sony console in November; requires Blu-ray disc to access at first, firmware update coming next year; Microsoft unfazed.

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It's official: Netflix is coming to the PlayStation 3. The Los Gatos, CA-based movie-rental company announced this morning that it was bringing its video streaming service to its subscribers who own Sony's console next month. The installed base of the PS3 is 9 million units in the US, with 11.1 million Americans subscribing to Netflix's mail-based DVD-rental service.

Coming soon to a PS3 near you.
Coming soon to a PS3 near you.

Today's announcement comes nearly a year after Netflix began offering video streaming via the Xbox 360. Under that arrangement, only subscribers of the premium-level Xbox Live Gold can use Netflix on their consoles. However, any PS3 owner who is a Netflix subscriber will be able to use the video-rental service at no additional cost.

While free, Netflix on the PS3 will require some setting up. Starting next month, the company will begin mailing out a free Blu-ray disc, which will use the console's BD-Live technology to connect to video-streaming servers. Once inserted, the disc will let players access and edit their Netflix cues, a functionality not currently available on the 360--but which will be added in next month's Xbox Live dashboard update. The disc can be reserved by visiting www.netflix.com/ps3.

[UPDATE] Speaking with GameSpot, Netflix vice president of corporate communications Steve Swasey confirmed that a firmware update to add Netflix directly to the PS3 XrossMediaBar (XMB) is coming next year. He also said the service will offer the same HD options as streaming on the 360 and PC, but that the 360 viewing parties are a Microsoft initiative, and it would be up to Sony to create an equivalent.

The PS3-Netflix deal was made public after months of both Microsoft and Netflix touting their deal as exclusive. However, it is not a surprise, as the latter company indicated in April that it was looking at console streaming on a 'variety of platforms' and hired a console chief with connections to both the PS3 and the Wii. Then, last month, CEO Reed Hastings told Reuters that "eventually we want to be on all the game consoles, all the Blu-ray players, all the Internet TVs."

[UPDATE 2] For its part, Microsoft seems unfazed by the PS3-Netflix deal. The company confirmed to GameSpot that a Xbox Live Gold membership will continue to be required to use Netflix on the 360. It also issued the following statement:

"The Netflix experience on Xbox Live is unique and reflects our commitment for social entertainment. We believe we offer an experience today that is a generation ahead of what others are offering. For a little over $4 a month, Xbox Live Gold membership is hands-down the best value in home entertainment, and gives you exclusive access multiplayer gaming and early demos as well as Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Last.fm, 1 vs 100 and more."

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