Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Why the Dish/Blockbuster Streaming Service Won’t Wound Netflix

It’s not a Netflix killer. So what exactly did Dish announce today?

The company held a 40-minute press conference in San Francisco to unveil its new Blockbuster branded service, and by the end, many folks, including myself, were left scratching their heads.

But best as I can tell, this is a service that might appeal to some Dish satellite TV customers who are paying for Netflix and want to save some money — they can get more or less what Netflix offers, at the price Netflix used to charge before its 60 percent price hike.

That’s not a terrible thing for Dish to offer. And if it does cost Reed Hastings and company some subscribers, then that’s certainly not a good thing for Netflix.

But Netflix — and its investors — have known for a long time that they’d be fighting new entrants in the streaming video game. If this is as tough as the competition gets, they’ll be quite happy.

Though Dish is trying mightily to differentiate between the two, they seem quite comparable, except that:

1) The service is only available to Dish customers, and only to a subset of the satellite service’s 14 million subscribers, those who have the correct boxes/tech connecting their sets.
2) The Dish service will give people the ability to pick up movies directly from a Blockbuster store instead of waiting to get it in the mail box.
3) Dish will offer a much smaller selection of titles for on-demand streaming than Netflix: 3,000 movies available for streaming to TVs, and 4,000 for streaming to PCs; Netflix has roughly 20,000 movie and TV titles.
4) The service will include videogame rentals via mail, which Netflix doesn’t offer yet but plans to roll out via its new/old Qwikster spin-off.
5) It costs $10 a month. That’s $6 less than a comparable Netflix disc + DVD combo, but $2 more than the Netflix streaming-only package. (Like DirecTV and its Sunday ticket package, Dish will also use the service as a promotional freebie for new sign-ups.)

I think as we have a little more time to delve into this, we’ll get a better sense of how the services really stack up: Does Dish/Blockbuster have access to the same kind of “long tail” content that Netflix says its customers value? What about Apple and Android apps? Etc.

But so far, at least, investors have taken a look at what Dish has to offer and shrugged: NFLX shares up 1.73 percent for the day.

[Image via rick seeney /]

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik