Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Warner Brothers Will Make Netflix, Redbox, Blockbuster Wait Longer for New Movies

Want to watch a new movie just out on DVD from Warner Brothers? You’re going to have to buy it, or wait even longer to get it from Netflix or other disc renters.

A new deal between Time Warner’s movie studio and Netflix, Redbox and Blockbuster will double the “window” for new releases. That means the services will now have to wait 56 days after the discs first go on sale to offer them to their customers, instead of 28 days. [UPDATE: Redbox parent Coinstar now says they haven't agreed to a new deal; see below]

The move is part of Hollywood’s ongoing campaign to bolster flagging DVD sales, and sources tell me the new deal is supposed to be announced at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Warner Brothers executives have already talked publicly about extending the current window.

This is the second time that Warner has been able to get the rental services to wait before distributing its movies.

In 2010, it struck deals with Netflix, and later Coinstar’s Redbox, to wait 28 days before renting its new discs. Coinstar and Netflix later landed similar pacts with most of the other big studios. (Coinstar did up end up in legal battles with Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox, which like this Web site is owned by News Corp.)

Two years ago, Netflix was able to argue that by delaying access to DVDs, it was able to get its hands on more streaming content, and lower prices for the discs it did buy. This time around, though, Warner won’t be granting any additional digital rights to the studios. It will simply be offering them the ability to buy discs in bulk, at a significant discount to retail pricing, like they already do.

Earlier today, news broke that HBO, another Time Warner unit, would stop selling its DVDs to Netflix altogether, but sources tell me the two moves aren’t directly related. Next week’s planned announcement is supposed to be tied to Warner Brothers’ continuing push for Ultraviolet, an industry consortium that’s supposed to allow home video buyers to watch their purchases on multiple machines, in multiple formats.

Reps for Time Warner, Coinstar, Netflix and Blockbuster parent company Dish Network declined to comment.

UPDATE: Coinstar is now commenting, via email. “The current agreement Coinstar has with Warner Bros. is to receive movie titles 28 days after their release. No revised agreements are in place.” The company’s current deal with Warner Bros. expires at the end of January; PR chief Marci Maule referred me to comments CEO Paul Davis made last fall about pursuing “workarounds” if studios try to extend their windows.


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