MOVIES! FUN! BLOCKBUSTER (s)!

Last week, I told you that Netflix has expanded its movies-on-demand-over-the-internet offering by signing deals with three big Hollywood studios. It’s <ahem> a Blockbuster of a business change, but one that goes not nearly far enough. Presumably, time will improve this.

As I’ve mentioned before, my local Blockbuster Video Store recently shut down. I pointed out that the unavailability of movies made me understand why people would feel all the more justified downloading their “wanna see tonights” over the Internet. I’ve just re-discovered another business change in progress for movie rentals, and I started out really excited . . . but realized it’s a change that needs to be re-thought.

I’ve known about Redbox for quite some time. It’s a video kiosk business, and if you happen to live near a Redbox you can rent movies for just $1 per night. Sadly, I don’t; Redbox just isn’t that well represented and there’s not one within 20 minutes of my home. What I discovered yesterday is that Blockbuster is doing almost exactly the same thing as Redbox, and the kiosks are everywhere. The service is called Blockbuster Express, and it costs the same $1 to rent a movie that you’d pay at Redbox.

So let’s see: instead of going to a Blockbuster store (if you can find one 🙁 ) and paying $5 to rent a movie you can get it from Blockbuster Express (popping up everywhere!) for $1. Big Win!

But only if you have a short-term view of what video rental is supposed to be.

At both Blockbuster Express and Redbox, there’s an inventory of between 600 and 700 movies. That’s great if you want to see movies that have been released recently, because understandably a number that low means that someone is deciding what to make available. “Recent” is simply the criteria that makes the most sense.

Also, there are problems that a physical-inventory system like this one simply cannot overcoming; the good news is that you can return the movies you rent to any location with both Redbox and Blockbuster Express, but that means that you might find yourself running around to find a kiosk that has what you’re looking for.

What’s most intriguing is that aside from it being a lot cheaper to use a kiosk at Blockbuster Express or Redbox than it was to walk into a video store and rent a movie, the physical store model simply worked better. It wasn’t a sure thing, but you at least had a chance of picking up that obscure oldy-but-goody at the thousands-of-titles-in-stock physical Blockbuster.

Internet downloads and streaming are looking better and better, huh? And the sooner the movie studios and distribution companies can figure out how to make rentals work “any film, any where, any time”, the better off everyone will be. What’s frustrating is that the technology exists and is in place in most homes right now; it’s all contractual issues that are standing in the way.

Remember that contracts are made to be changed. Kind of like business change itself.

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