Netflix’s recent troubles, which began with a a new pricing plan that raised rates by 60% on many subscribers and continued as members fled, the stock price tanked, and the company decided to split its business in two, has given new life to a competitor considered on its last breath, Blockbuster. The once ubiquitous movie-rental operation, which entered bankruptcy and was bought last April, just announced a new product that, at first glance, represents a far better value than the plans offered by Netflix and its DVD-by-mail offspring Qwikster. There’s just one hangup, though.
A fairly major hangup, that is: The new Blockbuster-Dish Network service is only available to customers who subscribe to Dish Network. If your pay TV bill comes from Comcast or Time Warner or any other provider, or if you’ve cut the cord entirely, you’re not eligible.
Dubbed the Blockbuster Movie Pass, the new service combines one DVD-by-mail service (over 100,000 titles available) with unlimited streaming (4,000+ options) for a flat $10 a month. Netflix customers, by contrast, are being asked to pay $8 for each of these services right now. And in the coming weeks, they’ll be asked to pay their monthly bills and track their queues with separate companies, when the operation splits into two distinct corporations, Netflix (for streaming) and Qwikster (DVD by mail). Blockbuster’s service also gets extra points because DVDs can be exchanged in physical store locations—though, after Blockbuster closed thousands of stores in the past few years, there are far fewer locations for exchanging.
Dish Network and Blockbuster executives boast that the components of their new package would cost roughly $20 through Netflix, since the Blockbuster Movie Pass includes Blu-ray and video games, which cost extra via Netflix. In today’s press conference (which was streamed online), executives also harped on the fact that, unlike Netflix customers, its subscribers would only have to deal with a single monthly bill.
While Blockbuster Movie Pass does indeed compare favorably in terms of pricing and services with Netflix, the main hurdle for consumers is that they must be Dish Network satellite subscribers to take advantage. To woo new subscribers, Dish is throwing in Blockbuster Movie Pass free of charge for one year when customers sign up for Dish’s Top 200 package, which costs $40 a month to start ($60/month after an introductory period).
If the Blockbuster Movie Pass was a stand-only product that didn’t require Dish Network subscription, it could have been the Netflix killer so many consumers have awaited. Execs left open the possibility that a stand-alone product may be offered in the future, but I’d be shocked if it cost anything close to $10 a month and came with all the services included right now.
As things stand, Blockbuster Movie Pass represents a reasonably priced upgrade for current Dish Network subscribers, or a little extra incentive for consumers who are disgruntled with other pay TV providers and/or Netflix and may want to jump ship.