Netflix now has about 12,000 films available for instant streaming and 100,000 in its DVD rental catalog. The company evidently wants to position itself to transition from its current rent-by-mail model to an all-Internet operation if the trend toward downloading content continues to build steam.
The world's largest online movie rental service and Starz, a subsidiary of conglomerate Liberty Media, were planning to announce Wednesday that Starz titles were being added to the "Watch Instantly" feature of Netflix's Web site.
The new content will beef up the more than 12,000 movies and TV shows Netflix already makes instantly watchable over the Internet through its streaming service.
While this is just a fraction of the 100,000 titles Netflix has available on DVDs, Netflix says it continues to grow both numbers and eventually hopes to close the gap between them.
In doing this, the company may be ensuring it remains relevant once people migrate from renting DVDs to watching movies over their high-speed Internet connections -- just as they switched from watching VHS tapes to DVDs.
Because movie distribution rights are tied up years in advance, "Spider-Man 3," for example, would not have been available for streaming for at least nine years, said Bill Myers, Starz's president and chief operating officer.
Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, said the deal is unique because Starz "would have been an eventual competitor."
In August, Starz pulled the plug on its Vongo movie-download service in favor of letting Verizon Communications and other companies market a similar service.