Netflix’s Movie Box Launches With Roku; Selection Still Limited; Buys Stake in Roku

imageSo funny this: Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) decides to build a streaming movie box for TV viewing sometime last year, and last spring hires Anthony Wood, the founder of ReplayTV and Roku box. Then, as is customary with the company by now, changes its mind late last year…Wood decides to leave Netflix to return to Roku. It also disclosed early this year that its first announced partner was LG Electronics (SEO: 066570), and that the box would hit markets in the summer or early autumn. Now, the box is here, but it isn’t with LG…lo behold, it is with Roku. Someone should give Reed Hastings some sort of prize, for consistency in changing around its digital strategy, at least. Anyway, details, details…

The first Netflix box by Roku is a 5-inch-by-5-inch device that will have access to about 10,000 videos, including movies, which means it is about 10 percent of total Netflix DVD catalog. Also, as Crave points out, only two of Netflix’s top 100 DVDs are available for streaming, for now: March of the Penguins and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The plus point is the price: it retails for $100, and delivers unlimited streaming to any Netflix subscriber on the $8.95 plan or above, without any additional charge. It is also simple to install and basic: it isn’t HD movie playing, like what Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) TV or Vudu offers, though those are pricier services. The LG Electronics box is expected to include the streaming capability in a Blu-ray DVD player, and is launching second half of this year, the company says.

Meanwhile, a more interesting strategic part: As Wood left to rejoin Roku, Netflix paid $6 million for an undisclosed stake in Saratoga-based company, this AP story says. Several other former Netflix employees also work at Roku.

The company has been offering its online instant movie service for about a year now and has been making changes and experimenting with packages.