Crispy Gamer

NOT NEWS ALERT: Xbox 360's Netflix 'Exclusivity'


A lot of gaming sites are all atwitter this morning about a new Microsoft press release touting the Xbox 360's "exclusive partnership" with Netflix to offer streaming movies on consoles. This sounds like big news, of course, because there have been persistent rumors that Netflix was close to adding similar streaming support to the Wii and/or PS3 in the near future. Engadget seems to be the first one to have explicitly noticed the "exclusive partnership" language this morning, but the "news" has spread to major outlets including Gizmodo, SlashGear, Kotaku, Joystiq GameDaily, VG247, and countless others in the past hours.

Only one problem: Microsoft has been touting this exact same "exclusive partnership" for over a year:

I point you to the following section from the July 14, 2008 press release announcing the initial availability of Netflix streaming on Xbox Live (emphasis added):

"At the E3 Media and Business Summit, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq “MSFT”) and Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), the world’s largest online movie rental service, today unveiled an exclusive partnership to offer consumers the ability to instantly stream movies and TV episodes from Netflix to the television via the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system. Xbox 360 will be the only game system that lets users instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix."

Compare that to the apparently newsworthy language that Engadget and others noticed just today (emphasis added):

"This exclusive partnership offers you the ability to instantly stream movies and TV episodes from Netflix to the television via Xbox 360. Xbox 360 will be the only game console to offer this movie-watching experience, available to Xbox LIVE Gold members who are also Netflix unlimited plan subscribers**, at no additional cost."

The simplest way to interpret this boilerplate PR language is the same today as it was a year ago -- that Microsoft's console relationship with Netflix is exclusive for now. Netflix themselves clarified this in an interview with Edge just three months ago (emphasis added):

"Netflix is always looking for ways to grow the service. For now, Netflix streaming on game consoles is exclusively on the Xbox 360 - and it’s a terrific hit."

I suppose it's possible that there's some bold, new, secret, long-term exclusivity deal between the two companies, and that Microsoft just clumsily and off-handedly announced it using the same exact language they've used to describe their relationship for over a year, but it seems rather unlikely. As it stands, the fact remains there's nothing revelatory in today's press release to indicate that the relationship between Microsoft and Netflix has changed, no matter how many news stories may jump to that conclusion.

[Update: 12:34pm EST -- Clarified the similarities in language between the two press releases]