Netflix — On Mah PS3!

I first took up Netflix eons ago, when there was no service hub in Anchorage, Alaska. Turn around time on my new rentals, from the day I dropped a DVD in the mail for return to Netflix, was about a week. I was thinking it wasn’t really worth it when Netflix produced the ability to stream movies straight to your computer from their web site. Hooray, I thought. Only… I have to use Internet Explorer? And I’m not even interested in any of these movies!

So I cancelled my service and went on my merry way. My friends told me when they put the Anchorage hub in, but at the time Netflix and my lifestyle weren’t going to jive, so I just catalogued the information for future use. A few months ago, I got an e-mail from Netflix. Come on, they said, give us another chance. We’ll even give you another two-week trial. Netflix would very much jive with my current carless lifestyle, I figured, so I said yes.

I am so glad that I did. Turn around is now two days — one to the hub, one back to me — and their streaming library is vast and ever-changing, losing some titles here and there but always getting more in their places. They also offer more ways to view streaming media. In addition to the ability to view movies on your computer from one of multiple browsers, you can get Netflix’s streaming service delivered to your TV through one of various devices. For a while, those various devices have included the Xbox 360, but not the PS3.

As of a several days ago, that changed.

Setting My PS3 Up for Streaming Netflix

On Tuesday, I received an e-mail from Netflix letting me know that their service can now be streamed to the PS3.

netflix PS3 ad
To be honest, I expected this to come at some point. Shortly after taking Netflix up again I was asked to participate in an online survey which asked, among other things, if I’d use streaming Netflix services on the PS3.

I eagerly clicked the obvious blue “Get your FREE disc!” button, and was taken to a page that basically told me they’d ship it to me post haste. I assume they had a large number of eager clickers, because I didn’t get the e-mail saying it had been shipped until Thursday. For Fri: Instant Streaming Disc for PS3. And so it was that on Friday it arrived. (I wanted to play Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction yesterday, though, so I didn’t actually pop the disc in until this morning.)

The envelope looked, on the outside, exactly like every other Netflix envelope, complete with the circular sticker and perforated edge to be torn. Is this borrowed, as well? Will I have to return it later? That seems kinda silly, I thought. Apparently the folks at Netflix agree, because pulling the flap open revealed the following.

Netflix envelope - "Use every time to watch instantly. DO NOT RETURN DISC TO NETFLIX"
We don’t want’cher stinkin’ disc back.
Netflix envelope - PS3 disc instructions
Shortest manual ever.
Netflix PS3 disc sleeve with repeated instructions
The instructions are repeated on the slipcover for the disc.

A friend of mine had theorized that the requirement of a disc indicated that you use it like a Gameshark to hack the console code during the boot process. This is not the case, which (in retrospect) makes a lot of sense. Now that consoles have gone profile-based and support downloadable games, fewer people are setting their consoles to load discs as soon as they turn on. Besides, the Playstation 3 doesn’t allow you to take out a disc without turning the console on, making having the disc in during boot up a potentially tedious process.

Anyway, I took Ratchet & Clank out of the PS3 and popped the Netflix disc in. The Netflix disc comes up, appropriately, under the movie submenu instead of the game submenu. Selecting it gave me the familiar streaming Netflix loading screen, after which I was told to go to www.netflix.com/ps3 and insert a six-character code to activate the service for my PS3. (Ten years later edit, April 18, 2019: Predictably, that URL no longer works.)

Well, poop. The PS3 won’t connect to the internet through a hub, so I had to turn it off and give the internet back to my computer for this, hoping all the while that I wasn’t required to have the PS3 and computer on simultaneously for the activation.

Netflix PS3 activation in browser
You have a PS3 disc. Something wrong? Need another one? If not, put in your code, please.

The next page told me it should take about three minutes to finish activating so I can use it. I took the next thirty minutes preparing pictures for and writing this post up to this point.

I decided to try running the PS3 through the hub again without checking to see if the activation worked with the PS3 offline or not. I’m glad I did, because the PS3 seemed to connect well enough when it was plugged into port 1 on the hub… and the activation screen with the code came up again, showing a different code than last time. On the plus side, it took 3 seconds to activate, as opposed to the 3 minutes Netflix generously gave itself.

My Take on the Service

If you’ve seen the Xbox 360 version of the Netflix service, you know that in the past it only shows movies on your instant queue as options for watching — you can’t simply browse what’s available like you can on the web site. The PS3 service works the same way. The visual aesthetic of the menu is different, though. On the Xbox 360, the movies in your queue are listed the way everything in the system menus are listed, as stacked pages which flip. On the PS3 it looks more like the Netflix web site’s film strip galleries of available movies with their cover pictures

You can either use the arrow buttons to scroll left and right one movie at a time or use the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons to page left and right, respectively. When you select a movie, it shows a detail page with all the info you get from the little mouseovers on the web site. There’s a button to click to play the selection, as well as an option to remove it from your queue. If you choose a TV show, an additional option lets you select a different episode than the one it wants to play for you by default.

If you select something you were in the middle of watching recently, you have the option of resuming playback or starting from the beginning. This works across platforms. I found out about this because I wanted to watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which I started watching the other day on my computer, to test the streaming service.

The quality of the streaming is excellent. There’s no lag between visuals and sound, and no noticeable choppiness. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was watching a DVD. Granted, I have a good internet connection; I don’t know how a poorer connection would fare.

Overall, I am extremely pleased. It would be nice, perhaps, if Netflix had included a list of commands useable during playback on one of the envelope flaps, but since the commands are fairly intuitive to people familiar with playing DVDs on a PS3, I can’t really complain.

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