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Online Video Rental Services: Blockbuster vs NetFlix

Updated on July 30, 2010

Can Blockbuster Online compete with Netflix?

Awhile ago I signed up with Blockbuster Online after reading the small print on a free trial offer. My free trial is for 2 weeks and I had to cancel before that ended or I pay a full month of service before it could be cancelled again. I would have 10 days after cancellation to return any DVDs or games I had checked out. Some friends at work told me that Netflix’s free trial is for a month…however I checked their site and found it was for two weeks as well with similar fine print.

Price

The basic service at Netflix is $17.99 a month for 3 movies out at a time. Blockbuster’s is $14.99. Blockbuster also gives you 2 in store coupons per month to rent movies or games for free. Neither service charges you for postage either way.

Selection

My initial thought was that I was going to do Blockbuster’s free trial, get my free movies then cancel and go with Netflix. Why? Selection. I have memories of Blockbuster’s censorship; specifically I recall my roommate trying to rent “The Last Temptation of Christ” and being told that Blockbuster did not carry that film. Years later… they have it available. So I decided to test a few other films: foreign films suggested by a Spanish speaking friend of mine, and a documentary I recalled from my Documentary class in college. They were both there. Finally, I tried “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”. No go with Blockbuster, it shows up on Netflix. However, my friend told me he tried to rent it but got a notice that they did not have enough of them in stock and were going to purchase more. We’ll see if he gets it.

Notice I only checked for film availability. If we were talking about game rentals Blockbuster would have a huge plus since Netflix does not rent games.

Timing

My co-workers told me that timing is everything in terms of getting your money’s worth with these services. It so happens that my work is near one of the hub post offices for our area. Because of this my co-workers seem to mail back films on Monday and receive their next films as early as Thursday. They noted the return address on the envelope though was a PO box in the very city our office is in.

I signed up with Blockbuster Online on Monday. I got my first 3 films today, pretty quick in my opinon. The return address says San Jose, CA so we’ll see how quick I get my next round of DVDs. My free in store coupons were available immediately, so I have the potential to see 5 films right now. I also saw a buy-one-get-one free coupon for ice cream at the store.

Services

Both systems handle their movie inventories by giving you your queue (list). You then put the films you want in order and they tell you if they are available immediately, after a short wait, long wait, etc. Both systems also have you rate films and then based on those recommendations, show you other films you might like. So far I’ve rated over 20 films and am quite amused when I check my recommendations list after each small batch of films. Just because I like some “kid” films (The Little Mermaid) doesn’t mean I like them all (non Disney animated films of other fairy tales). My friends tell me the Netflix list is similar. One thing Netflix does have though is the ability to split your queue so you can put films in genres for instance so you can time it to get one comedy and one action movie at the same time.

Preliminary “Final Thoughts”

By stats and value alone, Blockbuster is winning out. I’ll make a note of the return time though, as that will be a big factor. However, where Netflix is strong is in a community way. They have a friend system so you can see what your friend recommends. They also have a larger subscriber base. Somehow I feel a little “left out”. I suppose this feeling is similar to why certain meme type communities prosper, such as Livejournal for instance. Blogsome is free and a better deal (for customization opportunities at least) but Livejournal has that community already in place.

Lesson learned? Something also learned in the online gaming industry: popularity can override some discrepancies of cost.

Which Video Rental Service Do You Use?

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