Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Redbox Instant by Verizon' DVD / streaming video service nears beta launch

The Redbox - Verizon movie service, first announced way back in February, is nearly ready for prime time. The key to that statement, though, is the word "nearly," as “Redbox Instant by Verizon” won't go totally live later this month; instead it will launch an invitation-only beta.

The full product for “Redbox Instant by Verizon” will not begin service until sometime in 2013.

The offering may be tempting to many, with its pricing. It will be very similar to the "old Netflix," with streaming video and DVD. There will also be the ability to buy and rent individual movies a la iTunes and Amazon.com.

Basic service is $8 a month, which includes streaming along with up to four DVDs a month from a Redbox kiosk. You can go streaming-only for $6 per month, or upgrade to include Blu-ray discs for $9 a month.

Naturally, you also get access to an online store where you can buy or rent newer movies.

Redbox has a deal with Epix, just as Netflix and Amazon.com do, which means you can get semi-new movies like "Thor," but also new titles like "The Hunger Games" after they have been shown in the first pay window. “Redbox Instant by Verizon” also has a deal for older Warner Bros. movies something neither Netflix nor Amazon.com can boast (yet).

What Netflix has that Redbox doesn't have is an upcoming deal, starting in 2016, that will give it access to Walt Disney Company content in that first pay Window.

"Redbox Instant by Verizon" also doesn't have the deeper catalog titles its rivals have accumulated, and the joint service has little content from TV series, something that Netflix -- in particular -- has concentrated on recently. Certainly, it won't have access to the "Arrested Development" series exclusive to Netflix.

Still more limitations: the nascent service will debut with a library of only 5,500 movies compared to Netflix’s 60,000 titles. It will also initially only be available on the Web and through select Blu-ray players and Smart TVs. Netflix, on the other hand, can be accessed through a variety of devices, including computers, TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, smartphones, and tablets.

Notably, both Amazon.com (with its Instant Video service) and Hulu have been trying to grab market share away from Netflix for some time. Neither has succeeded.

Redbox, though, has two things going for it: its ubiquitous kiosks, thrown in as part of the service, and Verizon. Whether or not those make a difference will remain to be seen.



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