Fox Slaps Back (Legally) at Redbox

Published on October 1, 2009
by Kara Swisher


In the ongoing fight between Redbox–which rents DVDs from kiosks for $1–and major Hollywood studios, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment just filed a brief to dismiss Redbox’s lawsuit against it.

Said Fox in a statement:

“Redbox’s legal claims are fatally flawed. Fox’s filing today makes clear that, in the end, the case is all about Redbox’s refusal to make a business deal on general terms similar to those paid by others in this industry. Instead, Redbox has insisted that Fox sell DVDs to them through distributors, on the date they demand, at the price they want to pay. Unable to get the terms it wanted at the bargaining table, Redbox instead decided to file this meritless lawsuit.”

In a statement, Redbox president Mitch Lowe responded to the filing by stating that Fox was anti-consumer.

“Twentieth Century Fox continues its pursuit to prohibit consumer access to new release DVDs at affordable prices…Redbox remains steadfast in our commitment to protecting consumers’ rights and to providing our customers the DVDs they want, where they want and at the low price they want.”

In two briefs filed this afternoon, refuting Redbox’s allegations, Fox is asserting that it has not refused to provide DVDs to the outfit and has tried to negotiate a deal.

Under contention between the two are the price and terms of when DVDs of hit movies can be released to Redbox.

Redbox has asserted that Fox is violating antitrust laws and copyright misuse in not selling DVDs to the company.

Fox denied that claim in the brief, noting that Redbox simply did not want to pay up in order to get certain DVDs on the “street date,” as do other retailers.

Fox is one of three studios that have become embroiled in lawsuits with Redbox.

Located in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., and is wholly owned by Bellevue, Wash.-based Coinstar (CSTR), Redbox is seeing strong rental growth due to its $1-a-night price for first-run movies, which the company distributes via its 15,000 freestanding machines in supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as in big chains like McDonald’s (MCD), Wal-Mart (WMT) and Walgreens (WAG).

Its fascinating legal battle with the studios centers around the issues of steep discounting, release windowing and the price for premium content.

Redbox recently sued Warner Home Video, owned by Time Warner (TWX), for denying it the opportunity to buy DVDs without being required to wait a month or more to rent them out.

It has previously gone after NBC Universal’s Universal Studios Home Entertainment, owned by GE (GE) and Fox, a unit of News Corp. (NWS), for similar release restrictions.

The trio’s movies make up 40 percent of the DVD rental market.

In its brief today, Fox noted that it was willing to sell to Redbox directly, rather than via wholesalers, but that talks collapsed over pricing issues.

And while some studios are holding fast to fighting price declines represented by consumer-friendly, idiot-proof tech solutions like Redbox, others are not.

Redbox has inked deals with Sony (SNE); Lions Gate (LGF); Paramount, a unit of Viacom (VIA); and also gets movies from Walt Disney (DIS).

Here are two briefs filed by Fox in U.S. District Court in Delaware, the first, a motion to dismiss the lawsuit by Redbox, and the second to transfer venue to California:

FINAL Opening Brief in Support of Fox’s Motion to Dismiss

Redacted Transfer Venue Brief

(Full disclosure: Fox is owned by News Corp., which also owns Dow Jones, owner of this site.)

Return to: Fox Slaps Back (Legally) at Redbox