Streaming Movies on TV

By Leslie Meredith

You can stream movies on your computer, but few of us really enjoy watching a movie from a laptop perched on our stomachs – popcorn is out of the question from this position. We love the instant gratification of watching a movie instantly, no trips to the video store or red envelopes required. Services like Netflix, the by-mail movie rental leader, now offer movie streaming for your TV, but you’ll need a box to do it.

When you stream a movie, the signal is delivered through an internet connection to the TV. Like playing a DVD, you can pause, fast-forward, rewind, or watch a favorite over and over. Netflix is the leading provider of streaming movies, and has partnered with manufacturers to provide devices to connect TVs with Netflix service. First came the Roku Netflix Player last May, followed by TiVo, Xbox 360, and Blu-ray players by Samsung within the last six months. Recently, LG released its LH50 broadband TV complete with Netflix and Youtube, eliminating the need for a middleman device, but $2000 is a steep price for instant gratification. In the spirit of do it now without a big investment, just what do you need to start streaming movies on your TV? Maybe nothing.

If you have a TV and a high speed internet connection (that’s broadband or DSL, not dial-up) and TiVo or an Xbox 360, you have the equipment you need. If not, consider these and three more. Make your decision on price and extra capabilities you want for your family’s entertainment. Avoid product duplication: if one device delivers multiple options, you’ll get more for your money.


If all you want to do is stream movies, the Roku Netflix Player is cheap, wireless, supports high definition (HD) movies and it’s the easiest to set up. At $100, you’ll get your Netflix access, and Amazon Video on Demand for thousands of movie and TV episode choices.

The Xbox 360 is the only gaming system with Netflix. Access comes through the Xbox Live subscription at $50 per year plus the Netflix monthly fee. The Xbox 360 offers a gaming console, online access, the Xbox Marketplace with additional movies and TV shows to buy or stream, HD support, and it’s a DVD player. Don’t let your kids fool you, Xbox 360 delivers much more than gaming.

Our old pal TiVo was given an update last fall with Netflix and HD support. If you’ve got one, Netflix streaming is just one more option for TV when you want it, commercial free, and it’s a good option if you’re new to the whole DVR scene. Available through your cable provider.

Samsung’s BD-P1600 Blu-ray Player ($300) and its higher priced counterpart the BD-P3600 ($400) may be the way to go if you’re in the market for a Blu-ray player. You’ll get your Netflix and the ability to play Blu-ray discs. If you want a showpiece, consider Samsung’s new BD-4600 with Netflix and Pandora, internet radio customized to your music preferences. Be prepared to pay $500 for this one and spend a lot more time setting it up. LG offers similar Netflix ready players.

To save you from disappointment, you must know Netflix does not support surround sound, period. Maybe in the future, but not today. Epics deserve big sound so watch them on DVD or Blu-ray. But if you’re looking forward to a weekend of Audrey Hepburn, you’ll be more than happy with just the TV, your box, and all the popcorn you can eat.

Have a question? Email Leslie Meredith at

Streaming Movies on TV