Streaming Netflix Movies to an X-Box 360

By Deane Barker on November 25, 2008

I’m trying something tonight I’ve been meaning to get around to — I’m streaming movies from Netflix to my son’s X-Box 360. So far, it’s working great.

You have to have an X-Box Live account. Since I didn’t want to do this under my son’s existing account, I had to sign up for my own. But at $50/year, it’s not bad (for now, I paid just $8 for one month).

Then you have to have a Netflix account. I’m on a free trial for the three DVD at-a-time plan which runs $16.99 a month normally.

My X-Box gave me a code I entered on the Netflix Web site, and it was activated. Then I went to the “Watch Instantly” menu on Netflix (on my computer), and added movies to my “Instant” queue. You can stream them right through the computer, or — if you wait 30 seconds — they show up in your X-Box menu.

I picked Miami Vice, Season 1 (true story — if Isabella had been a boy, she was going to be named Sonny). Sure enough, within a few seconds, the DVD cover art appeared on my X-Box menu on the television. I was able to browse the contents of the disc, on which were multiple episodes of Vice (some, however, were marked “Episode available on disc only” — no idea why).

The system briefly checked my connection speed, and then — voila — “Calderone’s Return, Part 2” in all its synthesized 80s glory.

Video quality on my 46-inch LCD was great (according to the Wikipedia page, HD is available on a few hundred movies now). I downloaded as many big files as I could find from the PC, and even did some bandwidth tests (which involve large-ish files), but the TV image never stuttered or wavered.

The on-screen playback controls were standard and simple. You manipulate them with the X-Box controller. It even tells you how much of the show you watched (in percent), and let’s you rate the show right from the TV.

I’m trying to figure out the catch, but having trouble. Here’s an excerpt from the Netflix Help:

Instant watching is included with all Netflix plans.

Your current 3 at-a-time (Unlimited) plan provides unlimited hours for watching instantly. You can watch as many hours as you like, and there’s no additional charge for watching.

Your DVD plan is unchanged. Watching movies instantly online will not affect the number of DVDs you can receive or how quickly you can exchange discs.

So, I could actually back-off to the one DVD at-a-time plan ($5.99/month) and still get as much instant watching on my TV as I wanted. And still get DVDs in the mail on top of that.

The only drawback appears to be movie selection. Netflix stocks 100,000 titles, but only 10% of them are available instantly. Nevertheless, I found lots of recent releases like Ratatouille, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Dan in Real Life, No Country for Old Men, etc. Lots of TV too — every season of Heroes, The Office, CSI, Law and Order (all three variants), etc.

I’ll continue to post about it here, while I try it out. But, on first glance, this is fantastic.

Update: Read some updates from two weeks later.

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  1. Welcome to the glory that is Netflix and Xbox Live. I’ve been on Netflix for the last few months or so and am on the 1 DVD and unlimited online plan and love it. It’s something that we can sit down and watch some good movies or TV Series seasons and do it on our time. I received an extra DVD coupon for introducing a friend to it and I still haven’t had time to use it yet, so I don’t think we would have time for more than one physical DVD at a time, but we still do quite a bit of Netflix online. Now that it’s on Xbox Live, it is a ton easier. As far as stopping/starting of the movie once you started playing it, usually the worse case scenario is that it’ll stop one more time during the playback in order to “readjust” because your internet connection slowed down. However, the few times that’s happened to me, it only took 15-20 seconds tops.

    The worse part of the whole setup is…now it’s even harder for me to fight off the urges to buy an HDTV.

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