Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hollywood Showdown: Blockbuster, Redbox Balk at Warner’s New Window

Warner Bros. wants to keep its DVDs out of the hands of renters for an extra month. Blockbuster and Redbox don’t want to play along.

Which means we’re in for an interesting game of chicken between Time Warner’s movie studio and the two rental services. And the result will be meaningful for Netflix, too.

Here’s where things stand: Warner Bros wants to double the “window” that keeps new DVDs away from rental services from 28 days to 56 days, a strategy that’s supposed to encourage would-be renters to buy DVDs instead. Netflix intends on going along with the plan and will be able to buy discs directly from the studio at wholesale rates.

Warner plans on announcing the new terms next week at the Consumer Electronics Show. But though I reported yesterday that Dish Network’s Blockbuster and Coinstar’s Redbox had signed on, the two companies — directly and indirectly —  say that’s not the case. Earlier today a Coinstar rep told me the company won’t agree to a longer window, and a person familiar with Blockbuster’s thinking now says the same thing.

If neither side backs down, then Blockbuster and Redbox would have a marketing advantage over Netflix, since the companies could boast about getting new movies before their rival.

But that assumes they can get their hands on the movies. That will be costly, and perhaps quite difficult.

In the past, Redbox has bought movies directly from retailers (Netflix also used to do the same thing in the service’s early days. But chains like Wal-Mart and Target have instituted buying caps on their discs  that are supposed to thwart that strategy. (Thanks, Janko Roettgers.)

Grab your popcorn!

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