Late last night I got rather bored and decided to investigate Netflix and their "Watch Now" feature that was announced in January. Netflix says they are slowly rolling this service out until June 2007 when every account should have it. I had a Netflix account back in 2005 but I reinstated my membership on the lowest plan (4.99, 1 DVD at-a-time, 2 DVDs per month) to test out Watch Now.
As I had expected, my account did not have the Watch Now tab that allows me to instantly watch movies through my browser. I was about to cancel my account when I found a link to opt-in and activate instant watching. If you have an account that doesn't have Watch Now enabled, try clicking this link [via], logging out then back in. It worked for me.
To get it running you need to be logged in with Internet Explorer and for me that meant running my Windows XP installation in Parallels on OS X. The biggest problem I had was actually finding a Watch Now-capable movie on Netflix. They are taking quite a long time converting their library to Watch Now and most movies on Watch Now were, for lack of a better word, crap.
Fortunately I found The Matrix and started watching it. First though, I had to install Netflix's DRM component which only took a few seconds. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and found playback to be rather speedy and in good quality. Of course, the quality depends on the speed of your connection but Netflix deemed mine "high" quality. Initial buffering consumed roughly 20 seconds for me. The quality of the movie seemed on par with an actual DVD to me and like an actual DVD I was able to pause the movie and skip through it. Skipping does incur a brief buffering period if you skip to a section of the movie that hasn't been loaded yet.
Each Netflix account receives 1 hour of Watch Now movie viewing per dollar spent per month with the membership. For example, my 4.99 membership gets me 5 hours of online viewing per month in addition to the DVDs. Your online viewing doesn't affect your DVD limits.
What has your experience been like with Watch Now? If you don't have a Netflix account, is this feature something that interests you? I will probably cancel my Netflix account once more until they get to the point where just about every new DVD release is available on Watch Now.