Netflix Goes HD on the PC

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Netflix (s NFLX) is finally making some of its streaming titles available in HD on the PC, Hacking Netflix has confirmed. The addition of higher-quality videos being streamed to the PC comes a full 18 months after Netflix first announced support for HD on the Xbox 360, Blu-ray players and other connected devices.

Netflix first focused on making its high-quality titles available on consumer electronics devices that plug into user TV screens, announcing plans to make HD movies available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 in October 2008 and quickly followed that up with an announcement that HD streams would also be available on Blu-ray players that carry the streaming service.

Videos available in the higher-quality format are designated with an “HD available” label next to streaming in the listing of available formats when you mouse over the video thumbnail. Users can also browse for videos that are ready for HD streaming to the PC, as Netflix has added a gallery of titles that were specifically encoded for HD. Right now, it appears that about half of all titles are available on the PC in the higher-quality format, with 20 pages of HD content on the PC page, compared with 37 pages of HD content ready for broadband-connected CE devices.

Not all viewers will be able to watch the videos in HD, Netflix warns; although the titles are HD-ready, the company says “HD playback will only occur if you have sufficient bandwidth at the time of playback.” Users will need a high-speed Internet connection of 5 Mbps or more to view its videos in HD.

Netflix has seen a dramatic increase in adoption of its streaming service over the last year, with the percentage of users that streamed video jumping to 55 percent in the first quarter 2010, up from 36 percent the year before. Much of that increase is being driven by subscribers watching streaming titles on Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and other devices, but many still use the PC-based service.

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