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The struggling rental company is looking to innovate to win back customers by offering movies that can be watched on Motorola handhelds. This supports Blockbuster’s recent announcement of their on-demand downloading service offered through set top boxes, with alliances inked with Samsung Electronics and TiVo.
Consumers will be able to pay for separate titles and download the entire film to their phones so they are not cut off should they move out of cell phone range. The principle behind the service is to take content and watch it on trains and aeroplanes.
Blockbuster are an iconic brand, especially in the US with their massive blue sign on every street corner. They set up outlets all over North America (and the UK, Australia, Brazil, etc) and the advantage they had was proximity. In my view, people are not loyal to where they get a movie rental from and with NetFlix in the US and Love Film (mail-order rentals) consumers can order online and then wait to patiently to receive the film the next day. Most major film studios are beginning to set up online platforms, which is the third generation of movie distribution (after mail-order) and you have to wonder why it’s taken this long for Blockbuster to react? Furthermore, with VOD and now HD-VOD becoming common-place in the home, customers don’t even have to leave their seat to watch high-quality entertainment instantly. Driving to the rental shop is so passé.
Unless Blockbuster secures major exclusivity to movie distribution, then why would pay-tv operators partner with them to set up a platform on their service? Blockbuster could take care of the content aggregation (and other bits) and act as a good out-source for smaller operators wishing to sell top movies to their customers.
Still, my feeling is that the writing is on the wall for Blockbuster and it will take a massive effort to move into the digital distribution business to change my opinion. Kevin Lewis, senior VP for digital entertainment, said “we have to be in all the places that people care about seeing movies.” Damn straight.