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Blockbuster losing fight for consumer?

BarredWindows.jpgStudios finally seem to be accepting that the online rental through download and streaming is a great way to beat piracy and move with the times (see this previous Filmstalker article), however today we're hearing that one studio is still fighting the consumer demand, and the rental service that is standing up for that very demand.

Blockbuster have seen the demand for rentals earlier than the studios want to allow, they have a twenty-eight day sales window and Blockbuster have ignored it.

While I'm not going to paint it as a good versus evil fight since it's far more complex than that and in the end the companies are all about making money, this does affect the end consumer like you and I, and it's important to know how you are being marketed to and what the studios are trying to make you do.

In this case it's see the film, buy the DVD or Blu-ray and then go and rent it, and they want to enforce that by not allowing any overlap of those sales and ensuring that if you really want to see, own and/or rent it, you only get one choice at a time.

Twenty eight days by the way is four weeks. Not too long to wait, and perhaps not too unreasonable a requirement from the studios. However Blockbuster saw the demand and decided not to follow the window.

According to The Guardian they allowed retail copies of Horrible Bosses and The Green Lantern to be rented within that industry wide window, something that Warner Bros. have been quick to pick up on and deal with.

As punishment the studio have refused to give Blockbuster The Hangover Part II and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II for rental.

An interesting statistic in the article points out that the sale of films on physical media fell by nineteen percent in the first quarter of the year, and while there's no figure for online streaming it's clear that services such as LOVEFiLM are on the increase in households. Studios could contest that the profit and subscriber loss shown by Netflix is a mark against the online rental, but I wouldn't hold out on that one, Netflix is coming to the UK and Ireland next year and they'll be gaining people galore.

Warner Bros. are having none of it though, and next year they want to increase the sales window, which is in place for rental both online and offline, according to an interview in the Financial Times by the president of Warner Bros home entertainment, Kevin Tsujihara.

"The Netflix and Redbox deals are going to be expiring at the end of the year and beginning of next year and it's likely we will try to extend those windows..."

He also says that Blockbuster went around them rather than work with them, but that I assume he means agree to their terms, something that I'm sure would automatically tie them into an expanded sales window for next year.

"The question is: how do we make ownership more valuable and attractive? We have started the process of creating a window in bricks-and-mortar DVD and Blu-ray rental."

How is that an attraction to the consumer? That's not an attraction, that's enforcement. Forcing people into something is not the same as offering them an attractive product. Making sure they can only buy your product and that there is no alternative does not suddenly make Horrible Bosses or The Green Lantern an amazing film with a fabulous Blu-ray of extras.

Aren't we coming back to the point of it all again? Why are people going to buy something to keep? Well if it's good they will, if it's going to be watched again they will, otherwise they can just watch it when they like through rental. If the product is good people will buy it to keep, if it's worth it.

What does that mean? A good film and a good dose of extras to keep people engaged, not forcing people to wait weeks and months to be able to rent a film and see if you can grind them down to buying it instead. Think about the customer, isn't that a maxim in business?



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