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Monday, July 13, 2009

The Redbox Experience

I rented two movies from my local Redbox kiosk in the past week ('Rachel Getting Married' and 'Marley & Me' -- the latter chosen by my spouse, I feel compelled to add). I used a free credit coupon that you can get from their Web site for 'Rachel,' and we paid $1 for a one-night rental of 'Marley.'

Here's my take:

- Redbox is a classic low-end disruptor, as "Innovator's Dilemma" author Clay Christensen would call it. They are attacking the video market with a cheap price, and targeting the mass market, where video selection is not all that important -- they just want the big hits. (Each Redbox kiosk stocks 200 titles.) It's cheaper, even, than renting an on-demand movie from the cable company.

- The selection ain't bad. Our local kiosk had at least four or five titles that seemed worth watching, and I don't feel like my tastes would qualify as "mainstream."

- I wonder if movies stop showing up on the kiosk's screen when they're not available. Hard to tell how easy or hard it is to rent hot new releases from the kiosks. (Perhaps you'll comment.)

- Are you old enough to remember the early days of ATMs, when banks that had them only had one, and customers weren't very familiar with how they worked? Redbox is like that. Since there's one kiosk, if you get in line behind someone, you may be waiting a while. Similarly, if you're at the kiosk and want to spend a few minutes considering the choices, you may feel rushed by someone tapping their foot behind you. (That, my wife explained, was what resulted in 'Marley & Me.')

- The experience was perfectly pleasant, though I would've liked to see some star ratings or reviewers' comments attached to each movie description. Even if you returned a movie a day or two late, you'd still be paying just $2 or $3 for the rental, and wouldn't feel like you'd been fleeced.

- My local Redbox is near the exit from the grocery store. They're going to get people to rent movies on nights when they might not have stopped by the video store. So this will "steal" some time from TV and pay-per-view.

- With 15,400 kiosks already up and running, and one new one being installed every hour, Redbox is also gonna kill plenty of local video stores and hurt the surviving chains. After our first rental, my wife said, "Let's not use this again. I don't want the local place to go out of business." (And we're already Netflix subscribers, visiting the local video store 6-8 times a year at most...)

Your thoughts?

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  • I live in a city of 55,000 and, remarkably, we have exactly zero video stores. We used to have Blockbuster, Hollywood video, and 2-4 independent video stores at any given time. And then at some point last year all of them were gone.

    Redbox is a godsend to us. We subscribe to Netflix and are very active (usually getting the more obscure, indie, & classic movies) but when new releases come out on Tuesday we often reserve the 'big movies' on-line for pickup at the redbox kiosk (a great feature that nearly guarantees you get what you want). We visit redbox about 3-4 times per week, sometimes more.

    Our local grocery store has 2 kiosks due to demand and there are a number of other nearby stores with kiosks as well so returning movies is a breeze. Plus reserving on-line if my usual store doesn't have the title I can easily see if any stores do. The selection at our redbox is usually pretty good and includes direct to dvd titles and 'catalog' titles too. Sometimes the 'big' movies don't hit redbox for a few weeks after their release date though (I think I read somewhere it had something to do with a deal BBuster has with the studios.

    I hink redbox is great and it could only get better if they startto stock more 'indie' titles. The impulse buy (it's only a dollar!) could be very beneficial to lesser known titles finding an audience.

    As a filmmaker i would like to find out how i can get my movies distributed through redbox. there's no info on their website and I haven't gotten a response from their customer service.

    -Nathan Wrann

    p.s. The video stores in my city had all been slowly whittled away and I don't believe that any of them disappeared as a direct result of Redbox. I have to admit that I do miss the experience of walking the aisles and picking out a movie.

    By Blogger Nathan, at 8:43 AM  

  • Using Redbox isn't going to kill the video store business, that has already been displaced by progress. What it will do though is put a ceiling on what the studios can charge for VOD entertainment. When digital downloads first came out, they were way more expensive then today. If we were still living in a world where Blockbuster's $3.99 rental was the cheapest price you could get, we would still have $12 VOD rentals. Instead, VOD is priced more like a video store because they know that they have to compete with these lower price points. Instead of thinking about it as killing the video store, think of it as liberating consumers. This is the whole reason why Universal went after Redbox in the first place. The studios want to control the bottom price in the market while innovators want to offer low prices and great products to their customers.

    By Blogger Davis Freeberg, at 9:09 AM  

  • Nathan - what city? Just curious...

    By Blogger Scott Kirsner, at 9:51 AM  

  • Even if the title is out of stock at that particular machine, the movie still appears in the list. I've experienced this, and it's aggravating.

    By Blogger glassblowerscat, at 10:01 AM  

  • Scott, West Haven, CT. Right next door to New Haven. We are lucky that we have "Best Video" (one of the best video stores ever in existence) nearby in Hamden but that's a 20-30 minute drive through congested, city traffic.

    The movies aren't supposed to be listed if it's not available at that kiosk. I have never experienced the kiosk listing a movie and then not having it in.

    By Blogger Nathan, at 10:57 AM  

  • 100 of these in a city might kill a Blockbuster, but I think Netflix would be more likely to kill a video store in Cambridge (like a Hollywood Express, etc).

    Have you heard of the rental kiosk that lets you rent movies on your own USB disk? It might just be looking for VC at this point (I think it's silly, but I remember reading about it recently).

    By Blogger Sean Fitzroy, at 11:46 AM  

  • My girlfriend has used Red Box a few times, and she likes it a lot. The real killer feature you missed is the ability to search redbox's kiosks online and reserve a title. If the closest box doesn't have the hot new release, it will tell you that the one down the block does. And you don't have to worry about getting there too late because it reserves the copy for you.

    You also don't have to return the movies to the same kiosk you rented from. So if you are taking a flight and you know that there's a kiosk at your destination, you can rent a movie before you leave, watch it on the plane, and drop it off when you arrive.

    By Blogger Owen Williams, at 12:12 PM  

  • Hopefully a side effect of Redbox to Blockbuster will be a return to the early days when a video store had less "depth" and more selection of classics, indies, and foreign films--stuff a supermarket kiosk would not think to carry.

    By Blogger raquez, at 1:21 AM  

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