Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Redbox Verizon Movie Service Is Almost Ready to Take On Netflix

Here comes the next video service that wants to take on Netflix: Redbox and Verizon are finally ready to launch their long-awaited joint venture.

Well, almost ready: “Redbox Instant by Verizon” will go into an invitation-only beta launch this month, and the official push won’t start until next year.

Still, this means the company is officially unveiling its offering. Which is exactly what we told you it would be: A service that’s supposed to offer some streaming video, a la Netflix, and some movies via DVD, a la the old Netflix and the curent RedBox. And the ability to buy and rent individual movies online, like iTunes and Amazon.

The basic offer: $8 a month for a selection of streaming movies and the ability to rent up to 4 DVDs a month from Redboxes’ kiosks, plus an online store where you can buy or rent newer movies.

If you don’t want to or can’t use the Redbox kiosks, you can go for a streaming-only option for $6. If you want to rent Blu-ray discs, that’s $9 a month.

Like Netflix and Amazon, Redbox has a deal with Epix, which means you’ll get newish movies like “Thor,” along with some big titles like “The Hunger Games,” after they’ve been available for rental and on pay TV. It also has a similar deal for older movies from Warner Bros., which hasn’t cut deals with Netflix or Amazon (yet).

But the joint venture won’t have the deeper catalog titles its competitors have built up. And it has pretty much ignored the TV titles that Netflix in particular has concentrated on in recent years.

On the other hand, it will have an online store where you can rent and buy movies, which Netflix doesn’t offer — because, says CEO Reed Hastings, everyone else does. Though this store will be different from those run by other online retailers like Amazon and iTunes: For whatever reason, the company hasn’t signed on all of the studios, so there will be notable gaps from the likes of Disney and Sony. (Update: Redbox Instant says it does have a deal with Sony, after all.)

So basically: Costs about the same as Netflix, without some of the stuff people like about Netflix, with other stuff Netflix doesn’t have.

Is that compelling enough to take market share away from Hastings? We’ll have to wait some time to see, but it’s worth noting that Amazon and Hulu, which have been at this for a while, have yet to make a real dent.

In the meantime, the most interesting thing about Redbox Instant is what it could be, one day, if Verzion wants to push it. The service isn’t confined to Verizon’s fiber or wireless footprint, which means it could truly make it a national video service, if it wants to commit the resources. So far this looks more like a toe in the water than anything else.

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