Blockbuster Goes Online

Netflix has a huge head start in delivering rental movies over broadband Internet, but Blockbuster is making an attempt to catch up. The company announced their 2Wire MediaPoint digital media player last week. The device is nominally free; all you have to do is buy 25 movie rentals for $99, which works out to $4 apiece. After you’ve watched the initial 25, you can rent additional movies on demand for “as little as” $1.99 each. You can rewind or pause movies as you watch them. The movies are in DVD quality, which means standard definition. The press release does state that the player supports HD video content, though the company Web site indicates that only standard DVD quality is available at this point.

The box connects to your home network either through an Ethernet cable or a 802.11b/g wireless connection. It also includes component and HDMI connectors for a high-quality connection to your TV.

I’m not sure that Blockbuster has a winner here. Neither the press release nor the makes it clear how many films are available; the press release refers to “thousands of titles from the latest movie releases to classic favorites”. The Web site does list many rentals available for $1.99, but others cost $3.99. With Netflix offering “all you can eat” at no extra cost above your existing monthly subscription, the Blockbuster approach feels a little nickel-and-dime in comparison. If you watch a lot of movies, it would seem that Netflix has the edge on broadband delivery.