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EDITORIAL

Blockbuster Total Access - Better than Netflix?

 

Rating: NA

Distributor: Blockbuster

Released: Feb 10, 2007

 

Written by Dennis Landmann

 

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years, but would only rent from them roughly 6 months out of 12 as I put my account on hold many times or even canceled the service to sign up again much later. I remember the very early days of Netflix as my father was renting from them just as they started. Over the years their service has improved dramatically, adding new services (Watch Now, Buy Movies), a much larger library of DVDs, and easy website interface and navigation.

On the other side of the spectrum is Blockbuster, the leading video store rental company (I’m editorializing). With the arrival of Netflix, which lets customers rent DVDs by mail, Blockbuster had to respond and so got into the game as well. After a few good years renting movies online, Blockbuster couldn’t replicate the success that Netflix has been enjoying for so many years. It seemed Netflix had a monopoly on success, but in November 2006, Blockbuster came up with a new strategy and type of service that would make it more appealing.

Blockbuster’s tagline for the new service, “Never Be Without a Movie,” certainly gives customers an incentive to find out more about it. In a nutshell, the main selling point of Blockbuster Total Access effectively doubles a customer’s rentals as the movies received in the mail can be exchanged for free rentals in any of Blockbuster’s stores. Simply seal up the envelope and use it at the register to exchange it for any DVD in store, and it will go back to the Blockbuster shipping center the next day. Then, once registered as returned in the Blockbuster computer system, the next DVD in your queue is ready to ship out. Envelopes returned by mail usually take 2-3 days to clear the queue. In addition to exchanging an envelope for a free in-store movie, customers are able to print out one free movie or game coupon for use once a month.

Turnaround time for a returned envelope to register in the system varies between 1-2 days but mostly it’s a 24-hour service. A few times, however, a DVD took extra days to clear the queue and for the next DVD to go out. I suspect this happened for two reasons: One, the employee doesn’t send your envelope out the next day, instead keeping it with others in a box waiting for it to fill (I’ve seen an employee handling a box full of envelopes in the afternoon at my local store), and two, Blockbuster recognizes the customer’s speedy rental habits of viewing and returning DVDs and delays shipment of a DVD on purpose; this is known as “throttling,” a term and action Netflix is notorious for especially towards its high-end customers with fast turnaround time.

In my experience on the Blockbuster Total Access plan I started the first six to eight weeks pretty slow. In a two-month span from December to February I only rented about 8-9 DVDs, but over the past seven weeks I’ve picked up momentum considerably watching and returning movies within a 2/3-days span. My viewing habits picked up because I made more time and to see how Blockbuster would respond to my rental pattern change. Interestingly, Blockbuster responded quite well and didn’t resort to “throttling.” However, over the past seven weeks there were about two separate instances when a DVD took 3 days to arrive, most recently the Blockbuster exclusive “Harsh Times”. The good news about that title is that it was newly released and available to rent on the day and date (in other words: available now). Out of 60 movies in my queue, six titles are short wait and only two titles are “long wait,” the Criterion editions of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)” and “Closely Watched Trains.”

 

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Article posted on Mar 23, 2007 | Share this article | Top of Page

 

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