I sat down today with Bruce Anderson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Blockbuster On Demand, to answer a few of your most frequently asked questions about our digital service.
What is the difference between Blockbuster On Demand and Netflix’s digital service?
The primary difference between us and Netflix is that we’re focused on new releases, and Netflix isn’t. The vast majority of Netflix’s streaming content is a combination of TV shows and older movies.
Most of our digital movies are available to buy the same day as the DVD and Blu-ray versions. That’s becoming increasingly true for digital rentals, as well. So for example, we’ve had Couples Retreat available for streaming and downloading since February 9 when it was released on DVD and Blu-ray. We’ve had The Hangover and Star Trek since they came out, but as of today they’re still not available to stream from Netflix. Years can go by before a movie is available from Netflix — Erin Brockovich came out 10 years ago and you can’t stream it from Netflix.
Our goal is to offer all the movies our customers want most without them having to pay a monthly fee and wait.
Nothing that hit theaters in 2010 is out digitally yet, but we’ve got a bunch coming. In the meantime, here’s a list of the top 10 movies in 2009 (from boxofficemojo.com):
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Paul Bart: Mall Cop
Angels & Demons
Every one of those movies is currently available to rent and purchase from Blockbuster On Demand except Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which is only available to purchase. Paul Blart is also the only one on the list that’s available to stream from Netflix.
Another key difference is that we offer a download option for our customers. This is really great for customers who travel with a laptop — you can download The Hurt Locker to your laptop and enjoy it on your flight or road trip, since you don’t have to be connected to watch. Literally, our customers can watch digital movies on planes, trains, and automobiles (oh yes, we have that movie too!). Downloads also let you build up a library on your PC that you can watch on your Xbox (via home network) or put on portable devices like certain Archos players. Through our relationships with HTC and Motorola, our customers will soon be able to download to smartphones. You can’t do any of that if all you have is streaming.
Why do we charge for the service, instead of making it part of our movies by-mail subscription (like Netflix did)?
Again, it is all about new releases — we want to bring our customers the latest movies and the latest movies are only available on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Movies generally aren’t available through a subscription until they broadcast on TV, at which point you could probably stream them from Netflix, but even then they aren’t free because you have to pay a monthly fee.
Why doesn’t Blockbuster On Demand work on a Mac, and are there any plans to have Mac compatibility in the future?
Initially, our primary focus was to get service going on blockbuster.com. Later that focus shifted to making it work on TVs, Blu-ray players, and other consumer electronics. Now that we’ve established those channels, our goal is to bring Blockbuster On Demand to the Mac later this year.
Why do you delay the release of digital rentals as opposed to digital purchases?
Short answer: we don’t. Longer answer: The studios set availability dates, not us. Some movies are available to us for digital rental and purchase the same day as DVD and Blu-ray, while others aren’t available to us for digital rental until a couple of weeks later. For example, The Time Traveler’s Wife came out for digital rental and purchase on February 9, but Saw VI was available for digital purchase two weeks before digital rental.
When are you going to put Blockbuster On Demand on all the other internet-connected Blu-ray and TV brands? What about game consoles?
Stay tuned. You’ll see many more electronics brands carrying Blockbuster On Demand this year. The game consoles are more challenging, as Microsoft and Sony would rather operate their own digital movie stores than partner with us. We believe we can help them rent and sell more movies, so we’ll keep working on the relationship.
Follow-up: why not just do what Netflix did on the PS3?
We could do like Netflix did (make a BD-Live disk for the PS3), but we’d rather work with Sony than work around them. This wouldn’t help with Xbox though, because that console doesn’t do Blu-ray.
Any final words?
We’re bringing our customers the movies they want, where they want them, and when they want them.