First, Netflix is finally dropping HD-DVD on December 15th. Can't blame them, they announced they were going to phase it out in January. But I have about thirty movies in my queue in HD-DVD, so I'm trying to get through as many as possible. Which is difficult, since I spent a week and a half trying to get a copy of The Wild Bunch that works. I got two defective discs in a row, and today I received another replacement disc, which was cracked in half. So I gave up; The Wild Bunch is available on their Watch Instantly service, so I'll watch it that way, high-def be damned. I should say, I don't blame Netflix, I imagine problems with the condition of their remaining HD-DVD stock drove their decision to finally drop the format completely. I can't expect them to last forever.
The second reason Netflix has been dominating my attention is that the new xbox update, with streaming movies from Netflix Watch Instantly, is now live. I'd been watching Netflix movies on the Xbox via unofficial software and Vista Media Center, but that stopped working a few weeks ago (since I knew the official solution would soon be available, I didn't bother trying to fix it). But now I have a simple, smooth means of watching streaming movies on my HDTV. And I've been very happy with the final product, mostly. I know the selection could be better, but I have 500 items on my Watch Instantly queue, so I can't complain. I like the focus on indie film and documentaries, and the addition of Starz content is a nice plus. Picture quality, under ideal conditions, is great. There are even a small number of films available in high-def, including a few films that were already near the top of my list, like the new John Sayles movie Honeydripper. No one would confuse the picture quality with Blu-Ray, but I was impressed. But again, that's under ideal circumstances. Which means before 6 PM or after midnight. During the peak evening movie-viewing window, I go from four-bars quality (the best), to three or two bars. I stopped watching one movie, the quality was so bad. I don't know if this is because my cable internet connection is slowing down on my end or if Netflix's servers are being hammered (I suspect the former), but it's disappointing. But for the most part, even the lower-quality streams are acceptable, and when all goes well, it's DVD quality or better. And it looks like Netflix just renewed it's deal with the BBC, a lot of their stuff that was scheduled to expire at the end of the month no longer is, so that's a plus; it looks like I'll still have time to watch Yes, Prime Minister once I finally finish watching Yes, Minister.