Netflix May Launch Streaming-Only Plan in the U.S.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings doesn’t usually reveal future plans, but he decided to throw us a bone today after two days of bad publicity, hinting at the option of a cheaper subscription plan that comes without any physical DVD rentals in the U.S.

The official Netflix blog just published a post attributed to Hastings in which he writes:

“We are looking at adding a streaming-only option for the USA over the coming months.”

Hastings used the post to apologize for remarks he made in an interview yesterday with The Hollywood Reporter. THR’s reporter had asked Hastings if he expected a backlash from U.S. customers, given the fact that its U.S. plans are more expensive than the newly-launched Canadian subscription offering. Hastings’ response:

“How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It’s something we’ll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed.”

He called this statement an “awkward joke” today, and added that Netflix is simply cheaper in Canada because it doesn’t include any physical DVD rentals. Hastings’ apology was published just hours after the company’s VP of corporate communications apologized on the blog for using actors pretending to be an enthusiastic audience during a public unveiling of the Canadian service.

All of these PR blunders aside, moving toward a streaming-only makes economic sense for Netflix, as digital delivery is much cheaper. Adding digital-only subscribers could also help the company to offset some it its huge investments in streaming video rights. Netflix signed a deal with the pay TV channel Epix this summer that is valued at nearly $1 billion.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Scott Feldstein.

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