Redbox is a name you associate with rental kiosks littered around town, not streaming video. But the company, in partnership with Verizon, is adding to its repertoire in the hopes that its physical presence can translate over to the digital world. Instead of buck-a-night rentals, the company wants to offer a streaming service for a flat monthly rate. It’s a natural step, but is it really going to compete against the likes of Netflix?
The beta is essentially arranged with three different categories in mind: Subscription, At Kiosk and Rent/Buy. The UI is pretty easy to understand and arranged into neat sections that are painless to navigate. But you can, if you’re not careful, suddenly end up in sections where movies are either at kiosks-only, or only accessible through Rent or Buy.
From a consumer standpoint, offering up a streaming service for $8, and then only having certain titles available under that model, is frustrating. For example, Ted can be rented or bought, but not streamed; the only way to “Watch Now” is to pay up. Why would someone want to do that when they’re already paying for a monthly service? For that matter, it costs $5.99 to rent the HD version, while it’s a buck less through iTunes. I’m not seeing the value there.
There are already a ton of comments littered through Redbox Instant decrying the beta service, wondering where the incentive is to sign up when something like Netflix is around. You do, however, get four free rental credits each month at the kiosks, which I suppose is a nice little bonus.
When I first tried streaming about a week ago, nothing (or next to nothing) worked. This is a beta product, mind you, so I’m sure things are being worked on to ensure full functionality. Over the past few days, I was able to stream most of Thor without any issue, though I did notice one big annoyance. When I stopped near the end of the movie, and then came back to resume, it automatically started right back from the beginning. It doesn’t let you pick up where you left off, which I’m sure will peeve a lot of potential customers.
So far, the selection is hit and miss. There are some good titles such as True Grit and Snatch, but Redbox Instant is so far dominated by a lot of really old and unknown movies. For $8 a month, I can’t see customers staying on long-term unless more options are constantly added.
I’m not quite convinced Redbox has a winner in the works—yet. The company will have to consolidate the movies up for rental with the ones in streaming. That still won’t make its full library a killer, but it’s certainly a good start. And four free kiosk rentals a month sure doesn’t hurt.