US movie fans will be able to watch films they rent from Netflix directly through their PCs from today, the company said.
The company launched an unnamed new feature, which it referred to as "immediate viewing”, and said it will roll out online movie viewing over the next six months, with all users able to use it by the end of June. It will still offer its catalogue of about 70,000 DVDs by mail to its subscribers, with about 1,000 films and televisions shows available for watching online initially. There is no additional charge to view the films online, Netflix said.
Subscribers wanting to use the new feature will be required to download a browser applet to enable the service, and movies should start playing within 10 to 15 seconds. For DVD-quality viewing, users will need a 3Mbps broadband connection, although those with slower broadband speeds can still use it, the company said.
The number of films a user may watch online each month corresponds to their monthly subscription plan, with subscribers at the $5.99 (£3) per month level able to see six films, and those paying $17.99 (£9) permitted to watch 18 films.
Online movie and television downloads are expected to take off this year, following Apple’s entry into the market last year. The company is already offering downloadable programming to US users, and is expected to launch a UK-based service later this year.