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Netflix Gauging Interest in an iPhone App

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If a new survey sent out to Netflix (s NFLX) subscribers is any indication, the iPhone might be the next device that its streaming service rolls out on in the coming months. According to a tip sent to Hacking Netflix, the subscription video company is now asking users how likely they would be to use an iPhone app to view movies via its online streaming service.

According to the survey, an iPhone app would give users all the same functionality that they have when streaming on a PC or other device, including all the same movies and TV shows without advertisements or trailers. If the app is rolled out, the ability to watch on the Apple (s AAPL) mobile device would be offered at no additional charge to existing Netflix subscribers.

There is one potential downside to such a release: Based on the survey questions, it appears that the app would require users to be connected to a Wi-Fi network, so they wouldn’t be able to stream from AT&T’s (s T) wireless network. This has been a sore point for the wireless carrier, which until recently had restricted video streaming applications from using 3G or EDGE wireless network connections. That is slowly changing, however, as a rash of live streaming apps from Ustream, Qik and others were released late last year.

Netflix streaming has become nearly ubiquitous on consumer electronics devices in the past few years, and the company expects to have its streaming service on more than 100 different CE devices in 2010. But all of its initiatives in that arena have so far been aimed at getting the streaming service to the television through Blu-ray players, gaming consoles or other devices, or embedding the service onto HDTVs themselves. The release of an iPhone app would mark the first time the company takes aim at the mobile market.

Such a move would also fly in the face of statements made by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings late last year and on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in January. Last September, Hastings told Reuters that the company didn’t have plans to get onto the iPhone or other mobile devices “in the short term.” Then on Netflix’s most recent earnings call, Hastings said that iPhone and iPad streaming was “not a huge priority” for the company because it is “focused on the larger screen.”

Netflix surveys have tipped off the company’s plans in the past, including one that gauged subscriber interest in streaming on Microsoft’s (s MSFT) Xbox 360 gaming consoles. But not all surveys end up resulting in new products or features; take, for instance, one that Netflix conducted last spring asking if consumers would pay to add HBO content to their Netflix streaming options. That service never went anywhere, possibly due to low subscriber interest.

Full text of the survey is below:

“Imagine that Netflix offers its subscribers the ability to instantly watch movies & TV episodes on their iPhone. The selection availability to instantly watch includes some new releases, lots of classics and TV episodes. There are no advertisements or trailers, and movies start in as little as 30 seconds. You can fast-forward, rewind, and pause or watch again. The movies & TV episodes you instantly watch are included in your Netflix membership for no additional fee.

Whenever you want to instantly watch content on your iPhone, your iPhone must be connected to a Wi-Fi network (such as one you might have at home or at work, or in public places like coffee shops, book stores, hotels, airports, etc.)

If this functionality were available, how likely would you or someone in your household be to instantly watch movies & TV episodes on your iPhone via a Wi-Fi network?”

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5 Responses to “Netflix Gauging Interest in an iPhone App”

  1. Ryan Lawler

    I don’t know if that’s true. I mean, 3G would definitely make it a more interesting service, but I think a Wi-Fi service that could run on the iPhone/iPad would still get significant interest.

  2. I never got the survey for the HBO feature! Definitely would have voted for that.

    I think until the you can rock the 3g, its not that interesting to have Netflix on the iPhone.