January 25, 2005

the future of video rental

I've never been a huge fan of NetFlix or MovieLink for various reasons. With Netflix, I felt like I was paying too much (at the time $25 a month) for too many movies to watch. With Movielink, there are too few movies to choose from, and the digital rights management can be onerous to deal with (especially when travelling without an Internet connection.) So when I was perusing Fat Wallet and found a Blockbuster.com "three out," two week free trial + $10 cash back bonus for the low, low price of $14.95/month, I bit cautiously.

After our third week being on the service, I can unequivocally say that it's the best thing that I have paid for monthly since Tivo. The distribution hub that we feed to is Atlanta, which has proven to be a one-day wait for almost every movie that we've requested.

So far, we've whipped through seven movies with three more on the way as of today. And Blockbuster really has the rotation process down. They have an agreement with the US Postal Service that notifies them the same day that we put a DVD back in the mail to them. So... the three DVDs that we put in our mailbox yesterday triggered them to send three more out today (and notified us of that fact by email,) which will land in our mailbox tomorrow.

Plus, each month, Blockbuster gives you two downloadable coupons for a free rental of a game or a movie at their brick and mortar store. This really adds some value to the subscription... I can grab a Playstation 2 game, or if I happen to have shipped all three movies back that I had out, I can pick one up in the interim.

The best part is that it has all-of-a-sudden devalued the price of a movie rental for us. If, for instance, I decide that I want to watch the commentary to Friday Night Lights, I don't have to watch it before I return it - I can just throw it back in my queue. Or, if we decide that we want to work out to Easy Pilates for the next month, we could keep it all that time and just rotate the other two titles in our subscription. It brings some Tivo-type sensibilities to the movie rental process. It's better than having a movie channel + Tivo, because each channel only has a limited number of movies, and the Tivo only has a limited number of timeslots that it can record.

The added features of the real store integration, plus the value of the price drop makes it a very good service for us. So far.

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