It's official. Netflix has lifted its monthly time limits for online video viewing of its movies (starting Monday 1/14/2008). Netflix plans to remove the hourly limits that it previously placed on its users. Previously users (with 3 movies package were limited to 17 hours of total online movie streaming per month. Users with the lowest level of Netflix subscription will not yet receive this benefit. Time to upgrade.
Bloggers are talking about this and the timing saying that it is due to the treat from Apple since the announcement will come just ahead of Mac World where Apple is said to make an announcement regarding online movie rentals. There are also rumors that Apple will announce a rental service that costs almost $4/movie with a time limit of 24 hours to view the movie. If that is the case, I doubt this will be much of a threat. Although the difference will of course be that itunes users will likely be able to view these movies on their iphones and ipods. Remember as well that Netflix users can not view the movies unless they are on a PC. We will find out more about Apple's service this week.
Given these rumors, I think that the timing is perfect and Netflix has made a wise business decision, even with a development price tag of more than $40 million. With 7 million subscribers, I am sure that NetFlix will continue to maintain a large share of the movie rental market, both online and offline. We already heard about LG's Netflix-ready set-top box to be released later this year and this is an interesting and related annoucement.