Girding for a potential threat from Apple Inc., online DVD rental service Netflix Inc. is lifting its limits on how long most subscribers can watch movies and television shows over high-speed Internet connections. The Associated Press has learned the change will become effective Monday, on the eve of Apple's widely anticipated move into the movie rental industry. Although Apple hasn't confirmed anything yet, Chief Executive Steve Jobs is expected to make it official during a presentation Tuesday in San Francisco. Netflix is gearing up for the increased competition by expanding a year-old feature that streams movies over the Internet instead of making customers wait for their online rental requests to be delivered through the mail.
Until now, Netflix restricted how long its more than 7 million subscribers could use the streaming service each month, based on how much they pay to rent DVDs. For instance, under a popular plan that charges $16.99 per month to rent up to three DVDs at a time, Netflix customers could watch as many as 17 hours of entertainment each month on the streaming service, dubbed "Watch Instantly." With Monday's change, virtually all Netflix subscribers will be able to stream as many movies and TV shows as they want from a library containing more than 6,000 titles. There will be no additional charge for the unlimited access. Only the small portion of Netflix customers who pay $4.99 to rent up to two DVDs per month won't be provided unlimited access to the streaming service.
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