The online movie streaming business is an interesting one, which Netflix currently dominates, though it's definitely still early. While Netflix's solution is far from perfect, there's just something about the way in which Netflix set up its online offering -- where people pay for access, rather than content
that has been quite appealing to many people. However, with so much interest in online movie streaming, it's not surprising to see others entering the market, though it appears that many are taking a cargo cult
approach to creating online movie streaming services: they just put together a service that offers movies for streaming, without taking the time to understand why they work or what people actually want from them.
A few months back, we wrote about Best Buy's online movie service
, called CinemaNow, which is just the branding slapped on a service from a company called Sonic Solutions (somewhat confusingly, Sonic had owned and used the CinemaNow brand, but then sold it to Best Buy, who used it to offer a service powered by Sonic). Rather than following the Netflix online model of paying for access, the Best Buy/Sonic solution followed the old Blockbuster model: pay $15 to "buy" (really license for the life of your account, or until the service shuts down) or $4 to "rent," which would allow you to watch the movie within 30 days -- but once you started it, you would need to finish it within 24 hours. Those "24 hour" windows have been tried before, and they serve no purpose other than to absolutely annoy and piss people off.
In talking to people who follow these services, we've heard that CinemaNow has had dreadful pick-up rates. People just really aren't that interested, and it's not hard to see that services like Netflix appear to be a hell of a lot more user-friendly. Best Buy recently tried to amp up its marketing of the service
, and the best argument it can make against Netflix is: "We tell people to think of it like using Netflix, except you get to keep what you actually buy." Except, of course, that's not really accurate, nor compelling. First of all, you don't really get to "keep" what you "buy." In fact, you don't really get to "buy" anything. You just license it, and you lose it the second your account closes (or, again, the service goes out of business). And, of course, with the way the Netflix system works, you have unlimited access to every movie in its system anyway, so you basically get to "keep" all of the movies, anyway (if you define "keep" the same way Best Buy is defining it).
Anyway, the latest on this front is that Sears & Kmart have jumped into the fray with their own service
, which appears to be little more than an identical clone
to BestBuy's CinemaNow. The Sears/Kmart solution is called Alphaline Entertainment (huh?) and is also powered by Sonic -- but here the prices are actually higher
. The faux-own option now costs $20, rather than $15.
So you have a solution that is not compelling, has serious limitations, significantly underperforms the competition and is more expensive than an identical solution from the same core provider. Are Sears & Kmart really saying that their target market is uninformed suckers?