Stream Netflix & Hulu to Your TV with Xbox 360

September 30, 2009 – 8:18 am by Gabe Anderson | 10 Comments

A couple months ago my wife and I downgraded our cable from the fancy $75/month digital package with DVR offered by Time Warner to the most basic cable option — about 20 channels, non-digital, no DVR, and only $12/month. We haven’t missed cable and we still get to watch all of our favorite current TV shows, as well as plenty of movies and recent premium TV series.

The key ingredient? An Xbox 360.

It’s a gaming powerhouse, but, ironically, we own just a single game for it: The 360 incarnation of the Katamari series, which we also own on our iPhones. So it’s clearly not about the gaming, though it’s good to know the option is there. (I haven’t really been much of a video gamer since the Super Nintendo days of Zelda, Street Fighter II, and other now-classics.)

So here’s how to get plenty of entertainment in your living room for about $13/month and about $230 in up-front investment:

Buy an Xbox 360. The $199 arcade version is all you need.

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Get a long Ethernet cable to run from your router to your Xbox 360 ($10-20). Don’t want to string a cable through your house? Other options include the $99 Xbox 360 wireless adapter or the DIY bridging of your laptop’s wifi connection (I’ve done this; it works but isn’t too reliable).

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Subscribe to the 1-DVD-at-a-time with unlimited streaming $8.99/month or higher Netflix account (I have the 2-DVDs-at-a-time with unlimited streaming $13.99/month account).

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Hook yourself up with an Xbox Live Gold membership (it’s $49.99/year with options to pay monthly or quarterly, so roughly $4-5/month). That will allow you to use the Xbox 360 to stream Netflix with the high-quality player.

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If you want to stream Hulu, Amazon Video on Demand, and more, pay the one-time $29.99  fee for PlayOn Media Server, which allows your Xbox to stream content from the Internet via your computer (there’s also a Netflix module included with PlayOn, but the quality is not as good as the version built-in to the Xbox 360, which even streams some content in high-definition).

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That’s it! With this setup, you can enjoy streaming movies like Step Brothers, premium channel shows like Dexter (I recently watched Season 1 and am in the middle of Season 2 via Netflix), and even watch new episodes of current shows like Heroes via Hulu — all from the comfort of your living room.

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Sure, you could opt for the $99 Roku Netflix player, but then you’d miss out on streaming Hulu to your TV, along with the ability to playback any video, picture, or music you’ve downloaded to your computer… not only that, but your Xbox Live account gives you access to new movie rentals and a whole universe of gaming, if that’s your thing.

(Thanks, Justin, for introducing me to the beauty of the Xbox 360.)

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  1. 10 Responses to “Stream Netflix & Hulu to Your TV with Xbox 360”

  2. Great overview Gabe, thanks. I have a PS3 and a Mac so sadly this approach does not work for me – no native Netflix on PS3 (yet) and no Mac version of PlayOn (yet). I guess I’ll have to bide my time with workarounds far less elegant than your process.

    I can’t wait for the day when these types of solutions are platform-agnostic.

    By Chris on Sep 30, 2009

  3. Thanks, Chris! Glad you enjoyed this post, and yeah, too bad about the lack of Netflix on PS3 and PlayOn on Mac… I’m sure Netflix will eventually be even more prevalent, though. There’s an interesting story on the topic in the current issue of Wired:

    Netflix Everywhere: Sorry Cable, You’re History

    By gabe on Sep 30, 2009

  4. I tried PlayOn for my Wii. It actually worked pretty good.
    The trouble was with my Mac. I had to install PlayOn in a virtual windows 7 machine but then had to change a the networking settings (which messed up some other programs). I do have a vista box but the kids use it mostly and I didnt want to slow it down even more…
    If they had PlayOn for the Mac I would buy it.

    By James Kingsley on Oct 2, 2009

  5. I tried it on the Wii last night. I used wifi and didn’t wire it. Did a few tests. Tested all of the channel except Amazon. Everything worked great.

    I’m going to try out some of the plugins from http://www.playonplugins.com

    By Tom on Oct 2, 2009

  6. I used wifi too worked great. I tried out the rev3 plugin (i love filmriot) it plugged seemlessly

    By james kingsley on Oct 2, 2009

  7. or buy a cable to connect your computer to your tv for about $20. It does all this and more.

    By jackm on Oct 22, 2009

  8. jackm- true… assuming you have a TV that’s new enough to get good picture quality from the computer. My TV is old-school, so that’s not really an option for me now. So it’s more like [cost of a new HD TV] + $20, which is a lot more than an xbox. :)

    What type of connection do you use? Something like DVI to HDMI?

    And I’d imagine you’d need some kind of remote or wireless keyboard & mouse, too, right? And have your computer sitting in your living room, which might not be ideal for everyone.

    By gabe on Oct 22, 2009

  9. You could use a laptop (newer – with a built-in HDMI port) and connect that to the TV with a 3′ HDMI cable. Now using a wireless mouse and any flat surface, you can control the NetFlix movies and PC from your favorite chair… NICE setup!! It works great…

    By DC on Feb 14, 2010

  10. I own an Xbox and a Playstation and both are really good game consoles. Let’s see what are Microsoft’s future updgrades on its Xbox game console.**”

    By Adrian Morgan on May 9, 2010

  11. man I dont know too much about netflix but I recently got a monthly membership and I have been very disappointed with netflix…
    it’s so much better if you just go around the corner to a redbox.
    netflix has a huge lack of movies to steam.

    netflix it’s a good deal if you have a bad taste on movies

    By miguel on Jan 2, 2011

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