Netflix opened the door for Dish's Blockbuster Movie Pass

Dish Network unveiled its Blockbuster Movie Pass rental offering today, but it still has a long way to go to catch up to Netflix and others.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

As Netflix continues to flounder thanks to its own mistakes (See: Qwikster), the door is reopening to a rental bastion of the past: Blockbuster.

The beleaguered movie rentals company found a new life again when it was acquired by Dish Network earlier this year. Now the two are teaming up to overtake Netflix and other online and by-mail rental options with a subscription package of its own.

Touted as "a pay TV industry first" being that it is a subscription streaming movie service bundle available on TVs and PCs, the Blockbuster Movie Pass includes the following:

  • By mail: Over 100,000 DVD movies, TV shows and games available. No additional charge for HD Blu-ray movies. One, two or three disc plans available. Queue management online.
  • Streaming: More than 3,000 movies to the TV, and over 4,000 movies to the PC. Includes on-demand TV shows
  • Gaming: Over 3,000 video games available by mail for XBOX, XBOX 360, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii
  • Customers can exchange an unlimited amount of DVDs and video games at participating Blockbuster locations

However, the Blockbuster Movie Pass isn't quite the stunner that consumers might have been looking for. In fact, it's only available to Dish customers initially with an HD DVR box. And there's a vast lack of content for streaming to TVs and computers, and it even varies by those two mediums. That comes across as a bit odd and could end up being frustrating for users who prefer to watch the majority of streaming content on televisions.

If you're already a Dish customer, then an extra $10 per month for this content is rather reasonable. The opportunity to streamline bills and products is certainly a benefit.

There isn't much of a trial run option, except that between October 1 through January 31, new customers who subscribe to Dish's America's Top 200 programming package or greater and commit to 24 months of Dish Network service will get the Blockbuster Movie Pass included with their subscriptions for one year. New customers who opt for the America's Top 120 programming package will get three free months of coverage.

As for non-Dish customers, some kind of product is supposed to be in the works. But otherwise, it's not worth signing up and paying significantly more for the service if you didn't originally want it.

Despite the limited customer base, there is definitely space now for new competition in the movie rentals market -- and Netflix really only has itself to blame at this point.

Even just a week ago before Netflix foolishly announced its decision to tear apart the customer experience by dividing its DVD and streaming subscription companies, Netflix still had a formidable chance to stave off the competition. Yes, stocks were falling to a certain degree, and that was to be expected in the quarter after executives announced major subscription fee hikes.

But the shock of that would have likely died down and subscription rates could have balanced out within a few months. Netflix didn't even give itself a chance, and instead made a haste, foolhardy decision that has investors and customers alike questioning the stability of the company.

Dish has also already inked deals for content with major studios MGM, Epix, Sony Movie Channel, PixL and even Starz -- which recently dropped its deal with Netflix. Thus, new streaming options like this could be enticing movie studios to play the field more, which could cause Netflix to suffer in the long run.

For a closer look at moments from the announcement event today, check out CNET's live blog now. A replay of the webcast is also available on UStream.


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