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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blockbuster Has Seen the Future (Again): Renting Movies Via Kiosk for $2 On an SD Card

Yesterday word started circulating that Elm Street-based Blockbuster had found yet another way to combat RedBox: by offering downloads via SD cards, which users can stick into a kiosk that's loaded with about 1,000 titles from which to choose. It's the second time in a little more than a year that Blockbuster's gone the kiosk route -- last year, you may recall, the company debuted terminals from which subscribers could download to an Archos player for a fee, assuming you had or knew what an Archos player was.

The kiosks are set to debut this week in a handful of Dallas stores for a test run, but some are wondering today why in the why Blockbuster would opt for SD card downloads. As in: "What can't you do with an SD card? I mean, it plays in my iPhone ... wait ... I mean my Blackberry ... wait... In case no one told you, Blockbuster, we can't play this shit back on our digital cameras." To which true believers point out that, look, most netbooks and laptops have SD card slots, so, yeah, not an entirely bad idea. And they allow for full DRM copyright protection. And, as Fast Company notes, "SD cards do represent a marked improvement over DVDs in durability and re-usability, so if they caught on it'd hardly be a step backwards for movie buffs." The pricing, though, is a little questionable: $2 per download ... or a buck more than RedBox. We've got a call into Randy Hargrove, Blockbuster's spokesman; we'll update when he calls back, as he usually does.

Update at 1:51 p.m.: Someone with NCR, the manufacturer of the kiosk, just phoned with an update: Fast Company yesterday incorrectly reported the price of the SD download. The price will not be $4, but $2 ... at least, for now. "This is just a test," he says. "Just a pilot. It's nothing final." And he reminds that Hollywood Video is also testing the kiosk as well. Still waiting on Hargrove.

Update at 4:49 p.m.: In a just-posted interview with Unfair Park, Alex Camara, vice president and general manager of NCR Entertainment, explains the thinking behind his company's partnerships with Blockbuster, which include the SD card kiosks and the self-service Blockbuster Express DVD machines.