Netflix may get 1080p video streaming [Update: No]

Update: Netflix now says it incorrectly told CNet that 1080p is in its roadmap for this year. Surround Sound and closed captioning are in the works, but 1080p will not be introduced in 2010. Original story below.

Netflix will support 1080p video streaming later this year according to one report, even as the company downplays the importance of HD in another.

Without naming sources, CNet says Netflix will rollout 1080p video streaming and 5.1 Surround Sound this year, though no other details were given. We don’t know how much of Netflix’s content will appear in 1080p or what the bandwidth requirements will be. Currently, Netflix offers some of its Instant Watch library in 720p, requiring a connection speed of 7 Mbps to 10 Mbps.



What’s interesting is that on the same day CNet published this report, the Wiire posted an interview with Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey explaining that HD video isn’t that important. He noted that one out of every 17 titles streamed to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are in HD, but only 720p. “So, the HD experience at Netflix Instant Watching isn’t that overwhelming. It’s a little bit underwhelming. So the Wii folks aren’t going to miss that much,” Swasey said.

I don’t think Swasey’s comments invalidate CNet’s report. He’s speaking to a publication for Wii enthusiasts, so of course he doesn’t want to talk up HD streaming as a big deal to an audience whose console tops out at 480p.

Still, this suggests that Netflix isn’t going to push high definition streaming — whether it’s 720p or 1080p — anytime soon. With the Wii’s huge install base, it makes sense for Netflix to see how many of those people use the console for streaming before spending huge sums of money to license lots of HD content. With so few titles currently available in HD on instant streaming, Netflix doesn’t seem to be in a rush anyway.