Peter Kafka

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Heads Up, Apple and Hulu: Netflix Pushing Hard Into Streaming TV Shows

Netflix has always offered plenty of TV shows to its subscribers, but over the years it has primarily marketed itself as a movie-rental company. That’s going to start changing, the company announced today, as it expands its Web streaming service, which gets bigger every month: The company says that 61 percent of its 15 million subscribers are now streaming video over the Web, up from 37 percent a year ago.

Check out these prepared remarks from CEO Reed Hastings’ Q2 commentary (emphasis added):

In terms of streaming content, we are rapidly expanding our TV shows available for streaming and since our last call we have added thousands of TV episodes from new deals with Fox, MTV Networks and Warner Television. These shows include all seasons of “24,” “Futurama,” “Lie To Me,” “The Chapelle Show,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Veronica Mars,” and in a few weeks all seasons of “The Family Guy” will be available to stream as well. We see TV shows as equally important to our franchise as movies.

More here, as Hastings hammers it home: We want deliver more TV shows via the Web, and we’ll pay up for the privilege:

As we evolve from DVD by mail into streaming, the role of exclusive content changes….At this point we can start to afford some major TV shows and movies on an exclusive basis, and plan going forward on a mix of more-expensive exclusive content and lower-cost non-exclusive content. Our willingness to license some higher-priced exclusive content will open up new licensing opportunities for us…[we] are looking for more exclusive deals, especially on TV shows, as well as non-exclusive content.

So. Pay attention, Apple (AAPL), Hulu and anyone else who wants to make money selling Web access to TV shows–and every studio that has rights to sell: Hastings has a checkbook open.

Meanwhile one other nugget for the gaming crowd, or at least those that own Sony’s (SNE) PS3–Netflix (NFLX) says it will deliver on its promise to provide a streaming service via Sony’s game console that doesn’t require a disc within the next few months. Hastings: “Before our next call in October, we expect to be launching a major new version of our Sony PS3 user interface which doesn’t require a disc and is dynamically updated continuously with the latest Netflix UI improvements.”

No word on if they’ll ever have something comparable for Nintendo’s Wii, which launched this year but requires users to install a disc. Netflix via Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox 360, meanwhile, is a software-only proposition.