Bad news today for home theater fans: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said on a conference call that because Blu-ray discs cost more to purchase, the company plans on charging a premium on accounts that rent Blu-ray movies. Hastings said "consumers are used to paying more for high-definition," but with Blu-ray renters making up only a small percentage of Netflix subscribers, this certainly won't help spur adoption.
Previous to this announcement, videophiles have pretty much gotten a free-ride on renting higher-priced high-definition media, as Netflix offered both HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs to subscribers for no additional charge over a standard subscription--until Netflix stopped offering HD DVDs in February. Netflix continues to offer the ability to watch some movies online ("Watch Now") at no additional charge, but the selection is still pretty limited at this point (check out our hands-on from last year).
In addition to the Blu-ray news, Hastings also reiterated that Netflix is looking to bring the Watch Now feature to set-top boxes, which was reported back in January. In addition to the initial partnership with LG, Netflix plans to pair up with two additional major companies, and one additional small company. No details yet about who the small company is, but if we had to take an early guess...maybe Slingbox? It would certainly be a compelling upgrade to an already excellent product, and it makes sense since a Slingbox is by nature always connected to the Internet. We'll have to wait to find out, but not all that long: Hastings said the Watch Now-enabled boxes will all be out by the end of the year, with the one from the "small company" available even earlier.