Online movie rental store Netflix has introduced a feature that allows customers to immediately stream and watch movies and television programmes on their PCs.
Users will have the option of instantly watching about 1,000 movies and TV series, and the new feature will be included in subscribers' monthly membership plans at no additional cost.
Netflix expects to make the service available to all subscribers by the end of June.
The hours available for instant watching will vary based on subscribers' monthly plans. Subscribers on the entry-level $5.99 plan will have six hours of online movie watching per month.
Subscribers on Netflix's most popular plan, $17.99 for unlimited DVD rental and three discs out at a time, will have 18 hours of online movie watching per month.
Following a one-off installation of a simple browser applet, most subscribers' movie selections will begin playing in their web browser in as little as 10 to 15 seconds, the company claimed.
Reed Hastings, chief executive at Netflix, said: "While mainstream consumer adoption of online movie watching will take a number of years due to content and technology hurdles, the time is right for Netflix to take the first step.
"Over the coming years we will expand our selection of films, and work to get to every internet-connected screen, from cell phones to PCs to plasma screens. The PC screen is the best internet-connected screen today, so we are starting there."
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