Netflix streaming hits the UK & Ireland

Netflix’s European expansion is officially underway. The instant streaming giant launched in the UK and Ireland this week, offering region-specific programming to its diverse roster of TV shows and movies. The move, however, finds the company in a position it’s not used to: the underdog.

Netflix costs £5.99 and €6.99 per month, respectively. New members have the option to start a free one-month trial before signing up. The expected array of multimedia devices, computers and game consoles are supported.

“We are starting 2012 in the best possible way: by giving consumers in the UK and Ireland an amazing entertainment experience,” said Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO.

The company touted local programming as a nod to its new audience. Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt named British drama series “The Only Way is Essex” in particular, but Netflix will also stream content from the BBC, 4oD, Lionsgate UK, ITV and more.

Netflix will go head-to-head with UK-based movie rental and streaming outfit LoveFilm, which already boasts over 2 million members across several European countries. The DVD and instant video service was acquired by Amazon last year. With several additions since the launch of its Prime Instant Video last February, the popular cyber storefront has slowly amassed a library of streaming content that still pales in comparison to Netflix’s.

Hastings shrugged off LoveFilm’s potential impact, telling BBC News that while LoveFilm’s done “a great job” on DVD by-mail, Netflix has moved primarily to online video.

“Our streaming is on more platforms, we have more content [than LoveFilm],” Hastings said in an interview, adding that Sky Atlantic and Sky Movies are both company’s true competition.

Netflix lost nearly one million subscribers last year thanks to a reviled price hike, but still boasts over 20 million paying members. The company previously expanded operations to Canada and Latin America. (via Hacking Netflix)