Blockbuster is finally putting its Movielink service to work by delivering a set-top box that will deliver movies straight to your living room. Unlike its competitors, Blockbuster is not planning to charge subscription fees for access to the streaming service, instead choosing to follow an à la carte model with prices starting at just $1.99 per rental. After purchasing a movie, you’ll have up to 30 days to begin watching the film, and 24 hours to finish the film after you’ve started watching it.
To use the service, you’ll need Blockbuster's box, called the MediaPoint digital media player made by 2Wire. This box can stream approximately 2,000 of the 10,000 films from Blockbuster's online library. This vast library was gained from Blockbuster’s acquisition of Movielink in 2007. Under an introductory promotion, the box itself is free, assuming you prepay $99 for 25 rentals. Blockbuster doesn’t list a standalone price for the unit and you won’t need a Blockbuster Online DVD rent-by-mail plan to use the service.
Blockbuster’s biggest competitor, Netflix, offers a set-top box that sells for $99. However, Netflix’s online catalog of over 12,000 titles is larger than Blockbuster’s. The Roku box from Netflix has been available since May, giving the company a head-start on Blockbuster’s recent offering. In addition, Netflix delivers streaming content to the Xbox 360, various Blu-ray players, PCs, TiVo, and Mac computers.
Despite Netflix’s advantages, Blockbuster's MediaPoint player and OnDemand service have some strong points as well, such as the lack of subscription fees and availability of newer releases. In addition, you can browse and download films right from Blockbuster's MediaPoint player; Netflix’s Roku player and Watch Instantly service requires you to use a computer in order to queue films for streaming on the Roku device. Blockbuster is in talks to get its OnDemand streaming service onto Blu-ray players. Reuters also claims the company is considering a debut on the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3.
About the size of two boxes of movie candy, the MediaPoint player comes with Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Ethernet, HDMI, composite, component, and optical outputs. This box is capable of HD content as well as SD, though Blockbuster isn’t streaming HD content to the boxes just yet. (For the record, Netflix isn’t streaming HD video to devices other than the Xbox 360 yet either.)
Although competition is getting tougher in the online video space, with MGM’s plan to bring full movies to YouTube, Hulu’s streaming content, and TiVo’s latest offerings, we still think Blockbuster’s new box and service have a chance, especially if you consider this new offering’s low price point and unique introductory business model. Hopefully, the company will provide HD content soon and continue to increase its MediaPoint catalog, both of which should help the company’s service grow.