PS3 Netflix Disc-Free Streaming Coming by October

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Tired of feeding your PS3 discs to access Netflix's streaming video service? Of playing second fiddle to Microsoft's Xbox 360, which offers the service fully integrated with Xbox LIVE, disc-free?

Wait a just a little longer, says Netflix, and you can throw those discs out for good.

The company's CEO Reed Hastings today announced plans to launch "a new version of our Sony PS3 user interface which doesn't require a disc, and is dynamically updated continuously with the latest Netflix UI improvements."

When? Before the company's next earnings call in October, wrote Hastings in an investor statement. The company launched a version of Netflix for the PS3 late last year, but it requires users insert a Blu-ray disc to access it.

Hastings followed that up with a candid nod to direct competitor Hulu, whose Hulu Plus subscription streaming service just entered public beta with exclusive placement on the PS3 through 2010. Clearly Hulu has Netflix sitting up and paying attention.

"Once Hulu Plus has a few hundred thousand subscribers we'll be able to learn from consumers what they like about Hulu Plus," wrote Hastings. "Then we'll work to incorporate what we find back into Netflix."

If good composers borrow, we all know what great ones do, right? (As long as they're somehow able to work around patent law, anyway.)

But it's not just Hulu Netflix is fretting about. "In the long term, Hulu Plus and Netflix share the same major competitive threat," said Hastings, by which he means MVPDs--multichannel video programming distributors. Think set top boxes that offer broadband video playback, only tendered by wireline services from AT&T and Verizon, direct broadcast satellite companies, or your existing cable TV provider. This becomes a problem in Netflix's view if MVPD " much better that fewer consumers choose to supplement with Netflix or Hulu Plus."

In his annual wrap-up, Hastings noted the company's launch of Netflix streaming service on the Wii and Apple iPad, but didn't offers subscription numbers, though he did say the company expects to be available "on over 100 million devices in consumers' homes."

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