Posts Tagged ‘Netflix’

The Evolving Movie Rental Industry

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I recently upgraded to Dish Network, having been dissatisfied with DirecTV. Part of the welcome package included some free Pay-Per-View movie rentals, one of which I redeemed last night. When I set my DVR to record the movie to allow time for my wife and me to get the kids to bed, I saw a restriction that surprised me. Recorded movies expire in 24 hours. I’d seen this type of rental model before, but not from satellite television. This is just one of the indicators that change is afoot.

The most notable change in the rental industry is the recent bankruptcy of Blockbuster. It had been in steady decline for years, but looks like it is finally recognizing the fact. Blockbuster failed to see Netflix as a real threat until it was too late.

Netflix itself has taken a hit in customer satisfaction recently, as did Redbox, when it was announced that new movies would not be available for rent until 30 days or so after the release of the movie on DVD. Pay-Per-View vendors including Time Warner Cable, and even rental chains like Blockbuster took advantage of this in advertising. “Get your new release movies the day they are released…”

Enter new outlets like Sony’s PlayStation Network, Apple, and Amazon.com, to name a few. With the capitulation to the studios Netflix and Redbox have seen less action in our household. We typically get our new release rentals (when we rent at all) from the PlayStation. This is where I first saw the limited license on a rental, the one Dish Network reminded me of. The picture is great, and movies typically download quickly, or at least quickly enough to watch while they download. I’ve been pretty happy with this style of rental overall. I haven’t used Amazon or Apple extensively, but I imagine the experience is similar. My wife watched several TV shows on her old iPhone and seemed pretty happy with it.

With Dish Network, I am a little disappointed that things went this direction. The whole point of a DVR is to record things so you can watch it on your own schedule, and not the network schedule. As it is, I was unable to finish the movie I rented which means that by the time I have put the kids to bed tonight I will have lost the rights to view the movie. I would have hoped that for a three-hour movie they would extend the time slightly. It is largely because of this that I think this system is flawed. I wonder if people really want to be restricted to a reasonably achievable single viewing on a rental. 24 hours, at least for parents, is too short. It is never guaranteed that you will have an entire uninterrupted viewing experience. I think this is where Netflix has come back again as the winner.

Sure, you can’t watch brand new movies as soon as they are released. While it had been getting better, the queues for new releases were huge anyway, and I often found myself waiting for the crowds to subside before I watched new releases anyway. I don’t mind waiting the 28 or 30 days that the studios mandated. If I don’t like the movie or didn’t see it in the theater, I am not going to buy the movie just because I have to wait a month for Netflix to make it available. I usually know what movies I am going to buy ahead of time. Netflix lets you keep movies as long as you want, and doesn’t have late fees. Netflix is improving its downloadable movie content and there are some upgrades like streaming-only accounts and mobile streaming coming. I think that somehow, even in the midst of a seemingly flawed decision to capitulate to the big studios, Netflix managed to pull off another winner.

The movie industry has seen a lot of change thanks to digital media and the internet. Things are finally getting good for consumers, even if this scares the bigger studios. People want good movies, and they want them when and where it is convenient. I am looking forward to seeing what other positive changes happen in the next few years.

Netflix Now On iPhone

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

As Blockbuster is heading for Chapter 11, Netflix is making headlines the right way. You can now stream Netflix on your iPhone and iPod Touch. For subscribers with an $8.99 plan or higher, the app is available at “no additional cost.” The app is available over Wi-Fi or 3G. If you stop the stream it will resume where you left off. You can even resume playback on another device, say a video game console like the PS3 or Wii.

Netflix has been making great strides lately. Even if it bowed down to some of the larger movie studios who mistakenly think a 30 day delay will improve sales, Netflix is clearly showing it has what it takes to survive. Blockbuster can’t claim anything of the sort. Netflix is available in a number of places already, and the list is consistently growing. Once it hits Android, Netflix will be hard to displace. From all appearances the Android version is forthcoming. How do you use Netflix? I currently have it on disc, Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, and of course streaming on my laptop. There are DVD players and even televisions that come with the app too. Are you excited about the iPhone version? Let me know in the comments.

Now Rent Video Games By Mail from Blockbuster

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Visit blockbuster.com and you will find a new feature. You can now rent games from its Netflix-inspired Blockbuster By Mail program.

If you were surprised to learn that Blockbuster is still in business, you are not alone. The last few years have not been very favorable at Blockbuster. I picked up some bargain Star Wars posters from a couple local stores that were closing. I figured the rest were on their way out. Add to the closings the fact that Blockbuster got booted from the NYSE, and things aren’t looking so good.

Blockbuster has been trying hard to catch up to its competitors. Blockbuster made a good deal with movie distributors after Netflix and Redbox caved. It is now offering video game rentals through its rent-by-mail program. It also allows you to rent Blu-Ray discs without paying an additional fee. Will this be enough to save it? Probably not. It is, however, worth checking out before the ship finally sinks.

Your video game rentals are subject to your rental agreement. If you are on the 3 movies at a time plan, you can rent 3 games. The rules are different about returning a game in store though. While you can turn in a game in-store for a free movie rental with the Total Access subscription, you only get a discount on the game rental.

As I said before, this is unlikely to save the firm. Today is the day Blockbuster must pay the piper, in the form of $42 million in deferred debt. The fact that only one of the three stores I can recall off-hand in my area is still standing makes me wonder how much longer the store has. Until then, I’m checking out the game rentals. I figure it couldn’t hurt.