Online-rental programs vs. in-store rentals

Ryan Haidet

Blockbuster, Netflix change rental process

A few years ago, the movie-rental industry had a new competitor – online renting.

Netflix has led this battle scooping up 4 million subscribers since 1999 and increasing the number of available titles to more than 55,000. A few years later, competitors to Netflix began popping up and the most prominent one is Blockbuster Online.

Netflix and Blockbuster Online are DVD rental programs where subscribers can choose from a variety of options, which would determine the amount of movies one could have out at a time. According to the Netflix Web site, the most popular is the three-at-a-time program ($17.99 plus tax) meaning that subscribers could rent three DVDs at a time and keep them as long as they want.

When finished with the DVD, the movie is mailed back in a prepaid envelope. When one movie is returned, the next movie from a subscriber’s queue is sent.

Having been a Netflix subscriber for more than two years now, it was time to give the main competition a shot.

Blockbuster Online offers a 14-day free trial (as does Netflix) for the program that costs the same as Netflix three-at-a-time costs. After signing up, the first three Blockbuster Online DVDs arrived two days later.

These programs are essentially the same thing under a different company name and with a few minor differences. Both have one thing in common, however, in that they blow in-store rentals away.

First of all, Netflix offers critics’ reviews unlike Blockbuster Online. For any movie that was reviewed by a well-known critic, there is a link to read the entire review.

Blockbuster Online has an extra incentive in the form of one coupon a week for an in-store rental. This seems like a ploy to try and outdo Netflix, and it just might work because that’s four additional movies a month. This bonus is paid for in the subscription-a-month fee as four new releases at Blockbuster will cost more than $18.

The most convenient feature of all with online programs is that the subscriber doesn’t have to leave the house or worry about any late fees because the movie can be kept as long as desired.

Plus, once some form of payment for an online subscription is given (credit card, debit card, etc.), the money is automatically taken from that card when a payment is due. This way, the subscriber doesn’t have to worry about paying.

As for deciding what movies to get, both online-rental programs give a short description similar to one that would be on the back of a DVD case. You can even become a small-time critic by writing your own review and rate the movie for other members to view.

Online renting is also better because subscribers receive recommendations for other movies based on DVDs rented and returned.

To make an online program an even better value, split the monthly cost with two or three people. That way, the value of this program is maximized by getting many movies a month for around $7 a person. That’s a great deal.

There are only two downfalls to both of these online champs – availability and mailing problems. Often, new releases have a wait period on Netflix and Blockbuster Online just like when a movie is not in stock in a store. The other problem is when a DVD gets lost in the mail.

If these online businesses continue to grow and thrive in the future, in-store rentals will hurt for business as mailboxes continue to get filled with the newest DVDs.

Contact ALL correspondent Ryan Haidet at [email protected].