Consumer electronics maker LG has expanded its relationship with DVD rental service Netflix, introducing two new lines of HDTVs that include built-in support for Netflix’s Web-based video streaming service. The models, first announced at CES in January, include 47-inch LCD and 50-inch plasma sets that are available now as well as 42- and 60-inch versions coming later this summer.

LG already offers a pair of Netflix-enabled Blu-ray players and two home theater systems that support the service. (For more on Netflix’s "Watch Instantly" online streaming service, click here.)

Based on Broadcom’s digital TV system-on-a-chip (SoC) platform, LG’s "NetCast Entertainment Access" sets offer access the Netflix library of more than 12,000 on-demand titles, along with other online content, without the need for a dedicated external set-top box. An Ethernet connection is required, as is a Netflix subscription that includes online streaming access.

Media analyst Bruce Leichtman, however, is not convinced that the idea of embedded connectivity will resonate with consumers who have become accustomed to the set-top box model.

"Accessing content directly through the TV could cause confusion or even a lack of use because the enabling of that functionality is much more commonly associated with set-top boxes," he said, adding that TV-based tools have been tried before and failed. "The original electronic program guides were built into TVs and offered as standalone applications, but they didn’t really catch hold until they were offered in the set-top box."

Successful or not, according to Leichtman there is little chance that streaming services like Netflix will have much of an impact on linear video subscriptions, although premium services could see some losses if viewers opt for the convenience of the on demand model. The interesting twist, he said, could come if providers start incorporating such services into their own systems.

"You certainly won’t see cable doing it because cable has on-demand," he said. "But Netflix could be satellite’s way of dealing with on-demand, which they really don’t have today. That could be really interesting."

As for Roku, the maker of the original Netflix-to-TV streaming box, LG’s expansion in the space has raised little cause for concern, as the company has been moving beyond Netflix and adding new services to its platform, including Amazon’s HD Video On Demand.

"We continue to see tremendous demand for our Roku digital video player, and our sales continue to increase," said spokesperson Brian Jaquet. (For more on Roku’s recent moves, click here.)

– Timothy Sprinkle

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