Netflix Inc. will start showing movies and TV episodes over the Internet this week, providing its subscribers with more instant gratification as the DVD-by-mail service prepares for a looming technology shift threatening its survival.
The Los Gatos-based company plans to unveil the new “Watch Now” feature Tuesday, but only a small number of its more than 6 million subscribers will get immediate access to the service, which is being offered at no additional charge.
Netflix expects to introduce the instant viewing system to about 250,000 more subscribers each week through June to ensure its computers can cope with the increased demand.
After accepting a computer applet that takes less than a minute to install, subscribers will be able to watch anywhere from six hours to 48 hours of material per month on an Internet streaming service that is supposed to prevent piracy.
The allotted viewing time will be tied to how much customers already pay for their DVD rentals. Under Netflix’s most popular $17.99 monthly package, subscribers will receive 18 hours of Internet viewing time.