Verizon and Redbox: Who Cares?

Verizon and Redbox recently announced a partnership to launch a streaming/physical disc service. Yawn.

But I’ve been getting a lot of emails and questions about it recently, so maybe there’s something to it. Could it really be a contender? Could it really give Netflix serious competition?

I blew the suspense with the title, didn’t I? My bad.

It’s still a few months out, but here’s what I know. The new service, out later this year, will offer streaming and downloads, plus the “simplicity and value” of Redbox (their words). Basically, it’s Amazon Video on Demand, plus you can go to a Redbox and get a disc instantly (not counting the drive to the store).

Here’s why I don’t care. There are two important aspects to any streaming service: available content and content availability. Charming chiasmus aside, what I mean is that there are only two questions to ask. First, how much stuff there is to watch? and second, how can you watch it? Netflix is available everywhere. Good luck finding Verizobox on the Apple TV. With a fair amount of Blu-ray players offering Amazon Video on Demand, is there really a lack of options for streaming?

As far as the discs go, I’ll admit, the popularity of Redbox confuses me. I’ve never thought to myself, “I should rent a movie tonight. Ooo, let’s look at the shoddy selection in this plainly placed crimson container!” (Yes, my imaginary thoughts are laced with alliteration).

The one night a month I’m not working or playing SW:TOR, I can find something streaming or catch up on TV. On the rarer occasions I want to watch a new movie, I’ll add it to my queue. The instant gratification aspect to movie rentals escapes me. I’ve never needed to see a movie right now like that. I guess I’m in the minority here, and I’m told those who’ve spawned desire require things for their brood to stare at right away. That’s cool, I guess. No idea.

Now, I’m not saying Netflix doesn’t deserve some competition, even if it’s just to keep them on their toes, but this isn’t it. Especially not from a company with a history of suing major movie studios.

But here’s a thought: will competition actually drive prices up? The biggest issue with video services is not you or I. Netflix, et. al., couldn’t care less about us. It’s a seller’s market, and the sellers are the studios. Netflix, Amazon, Redbizon, whoever — they need the content, and it’s all unique content. There’s no cross-shopping between Warner and Universal. That would be like walking into a Ferrari dealership and asking for a deal because Catalina Yachts said they’d give you one (and we’ve all been there, amirite?)

If Warner wants to charge more for their content, and the most desperate and/or cash-rich company will pay it, isn’t that the new going rate for Warner content? What are the other services going to say? No? And concede all that Glengarry content to their competitors? In the long run, won’t this increase costs, leading to higher monthly prices? Just a thought.

Then what about content availability? If a company wants to blow a billion dollars on season 3 of Downton Abbey just for bragging rights (marketing), who could compete? Who would want to? Think that’s unlikely? Ever tried to buy Avatar on 3D Blu-ray? Ever wonder how many questions can fit in a paragraph? No?

I look at it this way: through my Apple TV I can buy/rent movies and TV shows, and stream Netflix. Through the better Blu-ray players, I can stream Netflix and access Amazon Video on Demand. If you bizarrely hate Netflix, Amazon’s Prime service is about the best deal going in consumer electronics: Free streaming, plus free 2-day delivery on purchases and free eBook rentals. . . for $6.58 a month. So I’m not sure how Veredizox (ok, that one was a stretch) is going to be able to compete on price enough to make their service seem a reasonable alternative. But like I said, I don’t need instant discs. Maybe there’s some kind of market there, for people looking for just one monthly bill, regardless of how good it is.

Is all this just jaw flapping? Should I wait to judge until all the details are in?

Nope, cause I don’t care.