Netflix (s NFLX) is shipping Wii discs required to access Watch Instantly streaming on the game console to all of its members, the company announced on its blog today. Customers can request their own free Wii disc on the company’s web site. The launch of the Wii disc program could be a huge boon to Netflix’s online ambitions, as new research shows that one in four Wii owners is already a Netflix subscriber. That’s a huge footprint, given the fact that Nintendo sold 3 million Wiis in the U.S. last December alone.
Netflix started to send out a first batch of these instant streaming discs three weeks ago to an undisclosed number of customers who had signed up to test the service. Initial reviews were mixed, as some users complained about the video quality of the service, while others lauded Netflix for offering more features than on devices like the Roku player. The soft launch also provoked a lively discussion amongst our readers, many of which pointed out that convenience is the point of watching streams via the Wii.
Nintendo’s (s NTDOY) Wii is the last of the three major game consoles to support Netflix streaming. The Wii is the most popular game console in the U.S., but its target audience of casual gamers also means that users have been less interested in accessing online services from the console. New research from The Diffusion Group (TDG) shows that only 54 percent of all Wii owners have hooked up their console to the Internet, as opposed to 78 percent of all PS3 owners and 73 percent of all Xbox 360 owners.
However, there’s huge potential for Netflix and Nintendo in this cooperation. A quarter of all Wii owners in the U.S. already subscribe to Netflix, according to TDG. Close to half of all Netflix customers have used Watch Instantly in the fourth quarter of 2009, which means that many users are already familiar with the service. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see many of those users flock to the Netflix web site and order their free disk in the days ahead.
Related content on GigaOM Pro: TDG’s Survey: Who Are Those Masked Online Video Viewers? (subscription required)