Netflix on Xbox, but not Media Center?

This announcement is welcome, but why only on the Xbox?

Microsoft Corp. and Netflix, Inc., the world’s largest online movie rental service, today unveiled an exclusive partnership to offer consumers the ability to instantly stream movies and TV episodes from Netflix to the television via the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system. Xbox 360 will be the only game system that lets users instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix. This movie watching innovation will be available to Xbox LIVE Gold members who are also Netflix subscribers and will let those users enjoy streaming movies from Netflix on Xbox LIVE at no additional cost.


Netflix on Xbox 360 is an important component of the new Xbox experience, a new generation of games and entertainment experiences that will be available on Xbox 360 consoles this fall. The new Xbox experience, also announced today at the E3 Media and Business Summit, represents the first time in history that a mass-market consumer electronics device has been re-invented through free software, giving people more fun and intuitive ways to interact, play and enjoy entertainment content.

It sure seems like it should be possible for this service to be ported to Windows Media Center. As an early adopter of Media Center technologies and a Netflix subscriber who isn’t a gamer, I feel left out (to put it mildly) when I read announcements like this. Look at this description, for instance:

From the Netflix Web site, members simply add movies and TV episodes to their individual instant Queues. Those choices will be automatically displayed on the TV screen via Xbox 360 and available to watch instantly. Once selected, movies will begin playing in as little as 30 seconds. In addition to instantly streaming movies to the TV, Xbox LIVE Gold members can fast-forward, pause and rewind, all using either their Xbox 360 Controller or Media Remote. In all, the user interface creates a highly personalized experience that puts viewers in control.

I’d love to be able to do this via a Media Center Extender, but I guess my only option for now is an unsupported user-written plug-in. Thanks, Netflix. And thanks, Microsoft. At least you can get an earful from your own community now.

Update: Chris Lanier seems to agree:

Yesterday Microsoft announced that they are partnering with Netflix to bring Netflix’s streaming content to the Xbox 360 Dashboard. What was not announced however is the same in Media Center. The good news is that Microsoft now has the backend to make it work. The bad news [is] that knowing them Netflix streaming may never be ported to Media Center. Looks like the Xbox 360 Dashboard is still Media Center biggest enemy.

Be sure to read the comments here and under Chris’s post.

15 thoughts on “Netflix on Xbox, but not Media Center?

  1. Well, these aren’t any different movies than the ones on Netflix site that can have the “Watch Now” button next to them. So yes they can be watched on your Media Center PC provided it has an internet connection. I do see what you’re saying regarding putting the UI into the MC app itself but to say it’s not possible at all is a bit much isn’t it?

  2. Where did I say this was not possible? In fact, I said the exact opposite. It is possible, they just have chosen not to do so at this time.

    I don’t have a Media Center PC in my living room or bedroom where I might want to watch a Netflix movie. It’s in my office, with extenders in the other rooms. And while Microsoft has now announced a solution for Xbox owners, owners of Media Center Extenders are (so far) out in the cold.

  3. The 360 makes a good extender, but I suppose your right about the others being left in the cold. Maybe you should start a petition.

    You might even restore the good name to petitions that Infoworld has worked so hard to ruin.

  4. This is a gaming conference… hence the Xbox 360 announcement. I fully expect another announcement at some point later this year regarding official VMC+Netflix integration so you can forgo the independently developer plugins. MS will probably save it for something VMC related, such as the upcoming update.

  5. Dave, if you’re referring to Fiji, that’s not intended to be a consumer update, AFAIK.

    I hope you’re right, but so far none of the other Xbox Live media deliverables aree available to MC owners…

  6. Yert, the 360 makes a good extender if you can overlook the noise. Unfortunately, my wife can’t, and Spousal Acceptabce Factor is the key metric for this stuff.

    Also, the idea of switching to the Xbox media blade and then back to the Media Center for tasks that are strikingly similar seems, well, wrong.

  7. I don’t understand the disappointment. The 360 is a closed platform, MS is the only one that can add functionality. They don’t need to port Netflix to MC, it’s already supported on the PC. While vmcNetflix isn’t supported directly by MS, the underlying technology is.

  8. Andy, Microsoft ships a CinemaNow plug-in and installs it automatically. So why not write an officially supported Netflix plug-in and ship it? Why should I have to go install a third-party plug-in and hope that it works and that neither Netflix nor Microsoft does something to break it?

  9. I expect that CinemaNow probably paid MS to include their addin.

    It would be better from a support perspective if Netflix would write an addin for MC (they did just hire Andy Park author of MyNetflix, a competing MC addin), but from their perspective why burn the development $$$ when someone will do it for them?

    I’d rather both Netflix and MS spent their developer time adding functionality that doesn’t exist then compete with a perfectly good community based application.

  10. Andy, I appreciate your perspective, but how is it “competing” when the community-based app is free? Community-based apps exist to fill needs that aren’t addressed in the baseline product. By definition, they are limited to enthusiasts, who seek them out and install them and update them and haunt support boards for fixes.

    This seems like the very definition of a feature that should graduate from community based plug-in to official release.

  11. I think it would be great if Netflix wrote an addin for MC, they could provide features and functionality that would be difficult for a third-party application to match. But it would, by definition, compete with any other application that did the same thing; free or not.

    Given finite resources however, it would be more efficient for them to spend those developer cycles enhancing their platform, so that instead of just replicating existing functionality in MC it would be easy for others to bring Neflix to other platforms and enhance the existing suppport within MC. Working with the community would benefit everyone. Netflix would get a stable solution for a much lower cost than doing it all themselves, we get the functionality we want, and developers get to develop instead of reverse engineer.

    Maybe the real problem is the difficulty around discovering functionality. Hopefully, this is something that MS will address in the future (TGB perhaps); making it easy to find third party applications for MC from MC.

  12. Andy, I think we’re approaching common ground now. If Microsoft would release a tool that could surface interesting add-ins within the MC interface (perhaps those that get high positive ratings from a site like TGB), it would go a long way toward addressing my concerns. If vmcNetflix works well, let me find it, read reviews, and install it easily from within MC.

  13. No, I agree, Ed — that makes sense. I think for people who just use NetFlix on-demand on their laptop, desktop, etc., it’s a non-issue, but if you have a non-Xbox media extender, yeah — it’s a pain.

    But I think this suggestion — a plug-in SDK — would be even better. Can we have that, please? Imagine content makers adding their own channels, etc. That’s something not available in the iTunes / AppleTV ecosystem.

    All of this said, I do think the Xbox announcement is good news. It’ll be interesting to see the sort of download-focused Xbox versus PS3’s Blu-Ray capability.

  14. This conversation is definitely moving in the right direction. WMC really does need some additional services to make it more viable for larger audiences.

    The idea of a VMC plug-in “library” (yeah, hate to say it, but like the iPhone store) where for-fee and free apps that are “approved” by some sort of QA process appear would be fantastic.

    This would help create an economy around WMC plug-ins, as well as facilitate the concept of MS not having to re-write apps that are already published to the library.

    One of the shames of WMC right now is that MS expects you to use Vista’s native OS to install applications for WMC. That’s just not right. I’m using it as my 10 foot experience, fully with a Logitech remote control. I should have no need to have to break out of WMC to install an add-on that will, once installed, be an elegant extension to the WMC environment.

    I’ve posted a few times about this on TGB forum, and I will continue to advocate a set of MS APIs that allow developers to let users install apps via the 10-foot GUI. This will go a long way towards making plug-ins more “mainstream.”

    WMC is a brilliant personal media management environment. There are just a few of these “last mile” issues that stop it from catching on beyond the perpetual early adopters like us!

    Oh, and there’s one more reason why XBox would get this NetFlix addition and not WMC…. The XBox NetFlix solve requires a GOLD membership to LIVE. This means NetFlix features require subscribers to keep their subscriptions alive.

    So, truthfully, Microsoft gets a market/revenue advantage from investing in Xbox/NetFlix integration, whereas with WMC, there is no fiscal advantage to MSFT. Arguably, there would be a slight one for NetFlix, though, presuming that WMC owners would purchase a NetFlix account with WatchNow if they had the wherewithall to a) find out about a 3rd party NetFlix plug-in, b) install a 3rd party NetFlix plug-in.


  15. There is already a very nice Windows media center plugin to access netflix. The latest version is available at Anthony Park’s website.

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