Internet braces for new Netflix unlimited-streaming plan

According to network equipment and software vendor Sandvine, Netflix accounts for 20% of all downstream traffic in the US during peak hours. As one might expect, the service is most popular during the prime-time hours of 8-10 PM. And it's sure to grow more popular. Netflix has has launched a new subscription plan for US customers that offers unlimited streaming for $8 a month.

Netflix started by offering movie rentals that arrived at your door by mail. Now, the company says more of its customers are streaming content rather than waiting for physical media. After a similar streaming-only plan was trialed in Canada at the same price, Netflix is ready to bring it to US customers.

Speaking of pricing, the new US subscription plan comes at the expense of unlimited plans that mix streaming with DVD rentals. Those plans are going up in price by $1-8 per month, which is sure to irk some users considering that a chunk of Netflix's content remains DVD-only. The price of Netflix's Blu-ray rental plans is unaffected by the new subscription offering, though.

The convenience of streaming downloads is hard to ignore, and I'm not surprised to see the majority of Netflix users moving away from physical media. $8 a month seems like a pretty good deal for unlimited streaming, especially considering the breadth of the catalog. Hulu Plus offers a similar unlimited subscription service for the same price, although movies don't appear to be a part of the deal. As far as I can tell, Hulu offers the latest episodes for all its TV shows, while Netflix can be one or more seasons behind. Of course, each service also has shows not offered by the other; Netflix has Mad Men and Weeds, while Hulu boasts Grey's Anatomy and Family Guy. Rather than one unlimited streaming service to rule them all, users may have to make do with a patchwork of plans from different providers. At least they're all pretty cheap.

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