updated 02:00 pm EDT, Fri September 23, 2011
Blockbuster Movie Pass gives perks for satellite
Dish Network made a bet on Internet video Friday with Blockbuster Movie Pass. The service bundles satellite TV with mailed movie, TV, and game rentals as well as Internet streaming. Pitched as a rival to Netflix and Qwikster, it takes advantage of the Blockbuster rights and TV streaming to give a wider catalog of Internet video; 10,000 movies in total will stream to TVs and computers, including from Starz and others who have held out on Netflix to shelter their TV business.
Movies and TV shows can stream to either the TV or to the web, although no mobile apps or console deals exist yet. The Blockbuster edge lets users return movies to a local Blockbuster store, if one is still open nearby, rather than have to send it back. Blu-ray movies won't carry a premium like they do at Netflix/Quickster, although games may carry the fee.
Service goes live October 1 but will be limited to Dish subscribers, who pay at least $10 per month on top of TV; $15 and $20 tiers will also be an option, although it's not clear what these will provide. New subscribers can get a year's worth of access if they sign on to an America's Top 200 satellite package for $40 per month.
Officials at the special event promised that they were working on a plan that would let non-Dish customers subscribe to the Movie Pass and to "stay tuned" for details. In present form, executives insist that required bundling is "what customers want" and that a separate service wasn't vital.
The decision is still likely to rule out Dish and Blockbuster as serious competition for Netflix, Qwikster, Amazon Instant Video, or pay-per-title services like iTunes. Dish holds a significant but minority stake in the market and is unlikely to persuade customers to switch to pay a similar rate to what they would if they just added a third-party service on top. Netflix, Hulu, and similar services also have apps for Android, iOS, game consoles, and some cases inside devices themselves that lets them stream video without needing a proprietary set-top box or to route video from the computer.