Bad Ideas: Blockbuster Planning Yet Another Set Top Box Offering

from the please-don't-do-it dept

It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Apparently Blockbuster is working on plans to offer up its very own set top box for downloading movies that can be watched on your television. This is a bad idea. There is a long and disastrous history of companies trying to create their own proprietary set top boxes for downloading movies. They pretty much all fail. It's another piece of expensive hardware that is extremely limited and tied to just a single company. This is probably something of a response to Netflix's plans to have consumer electronics companies build in the ability to download Netflix films directly to televisions and set top boxes. That plan was bad enough, but this is much worse. People don't want to spend a few hundred dollars just to get another set top box (which they don't have room for given the number they probably already have) that only does one thing and only works with one company who they may not be comfortable dealing with for very long.

If Netflix and Blockbuster were being smart about this, they'd actually agree to an open standard to allow consumer electronics makers to build into systems so that people could sign up for whichever movie download service they want. They won't do this because they think (short-sightedly) that this only helps their competitors while losing the "lock-in" that a proprietary solution would have. That's the wrong way of thinking about it, however. The proprietary, limited, solution will fail because it won't provide enough value. Therefore, the comparison isn't between helping a competitor or having the field to yourself. It's between a strategy that will cost a lot of money and ultimately fail, or one that will be cheaper and will most likely succeed, even if it means sharing some of that success with competitors. I don't know about you, but I'd prefer a success to a failure any time -- even if it means my competitors succeed as well.


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    Duncan, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 3:54am

    I don't know. I don't currently live in the states, haven't done so for a couple of years, but when I did, blockbuster was my favorite. (Been so since the 80's.)

    If their little box could do more then just stream movies, for example record television shows, maybe even cruise YouTube etc, it might be worth sacrificing for the space.

    I'd love it if it could check my email as well. :)

    But what blockbuster should do, is rent this little box out for cheap. Let's say a 30$ cost a month with 15 movies included each month or something like that. In the long run, they might be able to get some new customers.

    But I'm no market analyst, or tech guy. Just saying what would appeal to me. :)

     

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    Twinrova, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 3:58am

    Why is this a surprise to you?

    Hey! Why don't you send them a copy of your blog regarding freak out with the word "free" and give them a boost that the box should be "free". ;)

    Mike, this is the very thing I've been trying to tell you when it comes to "infinite" goods. It's not the good itself that's going to cost, it's the distribution.

    And if Blockbuster is going down this road, I say let them. Once the piss off the remaining customers they have left, they'll bury themselves and Netflix will take over.

    This is the trend I've been seeing in the last decade and it's quite stunning to see this continue. I guess history does continue to repeat itself.

    Businesses rarely look at customer service as a #1 priority. It's profits first, everything else last.

    This is no exception. We quit using Blockbuster long ago when our cable company started offering movies. They're $0.50 more than Blockbuster's price, but I never have to worry about returning them.

    Now I read that movies streaming to laptops/PCs are taking a bite out of the "rental" market as well (even home delivery is taking a hit).

    Consumers will always find the easiest and money saving option available while businesses continue to find ways to thwart them.

    Greed +1. Consumers -2.

     

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    Powerkor, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 4:53am

    i dont think the majority of us gives a damn about a set top box from blockbuster. They arent inovating, they arent pushing the envelope... they are just trying to keep up with other technologies that threaten their business model and adapting in a less-than-interesting way.

    Lets move on.

     

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    JC, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 6:01am

    hmmm...

    I used to work for Blockbuster many moons ago and I had an idea like this however, in my plan, being that Viacom owns Blockbuster, I figured the huge Media company could buy a station/channel and make "Blockbuster on Demand", which would have required no top box. The point is that the consumer would do nothing more than what they are used to. People don't adapt to change well. Providing a service needs to be as easy as possible for the consumer. No one is going to complete paperwork and sign up for something that needs to be installed, hence why Blckbuster stopped selling DirectTV. They, as a company, are definately not looking at the problem from a consumers point of view. Hell maybe they are trying to destroy their company. Either way Netflix will always have an edge on them. And the ability of the consumer to get instant gratification is the correct idea but they are not selling the correct product. Simplicity and instant gratification are the keys to success here!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 6:08am

    There is already a great Download service..

    It's called "Pirate Bay", and free to everyone. They will never be able to compete with sites like this. Download 20 movies/night, burn at your pleasure, watch when you want.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 6:25am

      Re: There is already a great Download service..

      "They will never be able to compete with sites like this."

      Actually they can, easily.

      1) Higher Quality
      You're not downloading 20 movies a night in HD. Ether of them.
      2) Faster
      Seeds can only push just so fast. especially if you only have 2.
      3) Legally
      It is still technically illegal to download movies and this fact should be added to any argument. It's a small point but still valid.
      4) Ease of use
      Big factor. Try explaining Bit torrent to someone who doesn't know what P2P stands for.

      If they make it a subscripton based service with access from an Xbox360, a PS3, and even possibly built into cable set top boxes than it may work. They need to get it onto as many devices as possible. If the price was right I'd get it.

       

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        Jake, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 7:54am

        Re: There is already a great Download service..

        Actually, whilst there are a great many things wrong with BitTorrent's software -its apparent inability to deal with my firewall being my personal anti-favourite- the actual UI is fairly intuitive.

         

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    chris (profile), Apr 11th, 2008 @ 6:37am

    set top boxes would work if only...

    they weren't tied to a particular company and the movies cost less or lasted longer than "on demand" movies from the cable company and they had a selection that rivaled the local video store's.

    it would be nice to have a simple and affordable means for getting to a movie when i felt like it, with little to no prior planning.

    the way it works now, i have to wait for a movie to arrive from blockbuster online, watch it/rip it/whatever, then take the movie back to a store and exchange it for another, watch it/rip it/whatever and take it back to the store, meanwhile the next 3 movies in my queue eventually make their way to my house.

    this is a decent system that lets me get older movies i want by using the queue, and getting high quality versions of new releases i want by going to the store.

    the pirate bay is a great way to get lower quality copies of new releases before they are available on DVD, and of course tv shows, but there is a wait and the labor of un-rarring and possibly transcoding. it's good, but not a replacement for DVD's.

    what is missing from all of this is when someone makes a ghostbusters joke in the middle of the day and i want to see ghostbusters that night. the queue method is a serious wait, plus adding movies to the queue and moving them to the front is a pain on the blockbuster website. making a trip to a store that *might* have a single copy available is a 50/50 chance of wasting my time.

    i think the solution would be a cheap "rental" of a stream, say a dollar or two, over the internet, to a device that let's me play it on my TV, say a set top box. perhaps they could partner with gametap or some other company so i could get games "on impulse" whenever i wanted as well.

    again, this is not a replacement for dvd rental, just a supplement, so it shouldn't cost as much as a dvd rental service.

    it would be great to just tell a website to "send" me a show or movie the instant i think about it. that would be well worth a couple of dollars.

     

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    Powerkor, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 8:38am

    I think Comcast and like providers will eventually mass a very nice collection, making set tops worthless. The on demand is an instant stream. Just imagine if you could buy the movie as an additional option. It would record it during play to your DVR, then somehow xfer it to your pc or the cable boxes would have more capacity to handle this feature. IMO

    At the moment netflix and the like is still the best option.

    On a side note, if you are not aware, 3d-memory capacity isn't too far off. (which means a ton more capacity for a ton less $)

     

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    NPGMBR, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 8:57am

    Re: Bad Ideas: Blockbuster Planning Yet Another Set Top Box Offering

    While I don't like the idea of set-top boxes I think its equally silly of a company that has the lead in its perspective market to just make things easy for its competitors. Sure, you would love to see everything to be open but reality bites and open its not necessarily a good thing when you're sitting at the top. When I was a young Marine, the competition for promotions was fierce. Only those that had that best fitness reports backed up by the best physical fitness scores and overall job performance advanced. Do you honestly think I would give the people that I was competing with for a promotion help? not a chance. Its a dog-eat-dog world and no amount of openness is going to chagt that.

     

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      DanC, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 10:33am

      Re: Re: Bad Ideas: Blockbuster Planning Yet Another Set Top Box Offering

      I think its equally silly of a company that has the lead in its perspective market to just make things easy for its competitors

      Of course, the primary reason why the set top box idea keeps failing is due to its proprietary nature. If the choice is between failing (again) with a closed system or succeeding with an open one, why would you insist on proprietary?

      Do you honestly think I would give the people that I was competing with for a promotion help?

      You are assuming (incorrectly) that creating an open system would be 'helping the competition' and automatically lead to a win-lose situation, where the competition receives a benefit at your expense. In actuality, it usually leads to a win-win situation where both companies can compete using their actual products, rather than the standard being used.

       

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    NPGMBR, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 11:16am

    Re: Bad Ideas: Blockbuster Planning Yet

    Ahhhh.....the first sentence you quoted speaks of giving help to a competitor. It does not make any references about propritary set-top boxes. I don't like boxes any more than the next guy.

    What you say in your second response has some merit, however, you stated "In actuality, it usually leads". Usually leads is not an affirmation of fact.

    When it comes to competition between Netflix and Blockbuster you have to take into consideration how much they can offer. If both parties (Netflix - Blockbuster) are competing on an open standard; how can they differentiate the product they are delivering? The product is protected by copyright. There is not much they can do to enhance the experience for consumers.

     

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      DanC, Apr 11th, 2008 @ 12:14pm

      Re: Re: Bad Ideas: Blockbuster Planning Yet

      the first sentence you quoted speaks of giving help to a competitor. It does not make any references about propritary set-top boxes.

      Okay, I'm confused then. The post topic concerns the proprietary set top boxes Blockbuster is planning on distributing. The suggested alternative was to compete on an open standard, allowing the actual services to compete. Your comments afterward stated that openness was not necessarily a good thing when you're the leader in a particular market.

      In the context of the post, I interpreted that to mean you thought Blockbuster was better off offering a proprietary set-top box rather than using a standard that Netflix or others could use, hence my comment about the tendency for failure of proprietary systems.

      Usually leads is not an affirmation of fact.

      True. There will always be exceptions. Apple, for instance, manages to do well for itself despite its proprietary nature.

      how can they differentiate the product they are delivering? The product is protected by copyright. There is not much they can do to enhance the experience for consumers.

      Delivering the movie to the customer is Blockbuster's product, not the movie itself. As for differentiating the product, there are plenty of ways. One I'm not particularly fond are exclusive distribution deals such as the one Blockbuster has with Weinstein Films. They could provide interactive information about the movie while it's playing. There's plenty of ways they can enhance the experience for customers, by providing something in addition to the movie.

       

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    Rekrul, Apr 12th, 2008 @ 12:16pm

    Putting aside the whole issue of set-top boxes, any serious movie fan should reject such a service from Blockbuster anyway. They refuse to carry NC-17 movies like Showgirls and instead insist on the studios supplying them with specially edited versions. I've heard that even some R-rated movies have been edited for Blockbuster. Plus, I've never liked them since they forced the small local stores out of business. Those local stores had a much better selection of obscure movies than Blockbuster ever will.

     

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