Roku To Stream Netflix HD Movies By End Of The Year

Before the end of this year, Roku will be releasing Netflix HD content to all Roku customers as a free, automatic upgrade. While exact details on the encoding bitrates are not known, Netflix HD content on the Roku should look better than Netflix HD on the Xbox since Roku will be using "advanced profiles" encoding.

Using advanced profiles encoding will allow Roku to deliver the same HD quality video, but at lower bitrates. This enables users who don't have high-end bandwidth to still be able to get HD quality video. While interlaced video content is typically de-interlaced before encoding with the Windows Media Video codec, advanced profiles supports compression of interlaced content without first converting it to progressive content. Microsoft says that maintaining interlacing in an encoded file is important if the content is ever rendered on an interlaced display, such as a television.

While I don't expect a lot of Netflix's inventory to be available in HD at the time of launch, giving all Roku users HD quality for free will definitely help Roku sell more boxes. In addition, last week, Roku announced that it had raised a third round of funding from Menlo Ventures. Even in today's poor economy, investors clearly still believe that Roku has a chance at making a dent in the market. With the list price of the Roku box being just $99 and Roku planning to open up their box soon to content other than Netflix, they have a good shot at getting some real market penetration.