Posts Tagged ‘Streaming Movies’

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.