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Redbox a possible threat to Netflix?

Focus Editor

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

While Netflix has enjoyed a monopoly on the streaming-video market for a few years now, some recent developments have signaled that the video giant is about to get some serious contenders. Amazon Instant Video, for example, allows its users to stream purchased television shows along with its rapidly growing listings of free instant movies and TV shows, some of which are exclusive to their service (early and recent seasons of “The Simpsons” are Amazon exclusives, for example). Add in Amazon’s inclusion of their Prime service, where the entry fee for video also covers a year of free two-day shipping on any orders, and the first major challenger to Netflix’s throne becomes apparent.

But another rental giant has stepped into the ring, armed with a few gimmicks. Redbox, the widespread rental kiosk chain that can be found pretty much anywhere from convenience stores to restaurants, recently announced a team-up with Verizon to launch their own streaming service, Redbox Instant, and will be opening a beta to early signups in January. With beta access, it’s clear to see that Redbox and Verizon’s fledgling service clearly still needs to find its sea legs, though a few small touches hint that the service could soon rival the red enveloped king of streaming.

Stacked up against Netflix’s gigantic streaming library, Redbox Instant’s few thousand movies available to stream fail miserably. The cream of the crop can be found on any other streaming service. Most of the worthwhile movies are Paramount releases dating back at least a year like “The Devil Inside,” “Thor” or “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” The other semi-noteworthy movies that crop up occasionally are usually second-rate, like Lionsgate’s “One for the Money,” and can also be found on other services. Not only does Redbox Instant cripple itself by lacking television shows, a glaring flaw, but ninety percent of its library is comprised of cookie-cutter, direct-to-DVD films not worthy of the time of day, much less two hours of anyone’s life.

Redbox Instant has extra, new-ish films available for purchase to stream and rent, much like those available on Amazon or iTunes, and they’re not too noteworthy either; they’re available elsewhere for much cheaper than the $5 for a 24 hour rental or $16 for a digital film purchase Redbox offers. The video player itself is pretty bare, also lacking in the face of competition, though it’s safe to assume it’ll evolve with time.

Where Redbox Instant makes itself worth the price is its kiosk rental credits. The sparse online selection is somewhat redeemed by the fact that for the $8 per month subscription fee, users receive four one-night rentals at any Redbox location. That means new flicks are available whenever someone takes a trip to the grocery store. (For an extra buck, users can soon get four Blu-Ray credits instead of DVD credits.) What’s more, reserving online is a piece of cake, taking mere seconds, and a mere swipe of whichever card is tied to an account will get a movie out of the physical Redbox.

While Redbox Instant is still in its infancy, it shows some promise, especially when it offers users the ability to rent much newer films than Netflix or Amazon can provide their audience. It remains to be seen whether their other distribution forms’ selections can improve before it can truly be recommended, though. The race for online video supremacy is only beginning, and while Netflix is still in the lead, having two competitors with a third from Comcast on the way means things are going to get a bit more interesting in the near future.

 

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