TCU Daily Skiff Friday, March 12, 2004
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Netflix offers new way to rent movies

By Catherine Pillsbury

Imagine an alternative life where you don’t have to leave home to be entertained by movies. No lines, no due dates, no hassling with people.

They call that the movie channel. But for those, who for some reason or another have yet to embrace the idea of satellite dishes and 821 channels, the Internet has made chronic movie watching cheaper.

Netflix, an online movie rental service, has made the idea of never entering another video store an indulgent reality by charging a flat-rate fee of $19.95 a month for as many movies as you want — no due dates, no late charges!

Such cable options as DirecTV are $39.99 a month, plus the cost of the extra movie packages; but according to the Web site, it has additional options available such as new movie premieres every Saturday night.

According to the Web site, “DirecTV Pay Per View Movies brings the best selection of films straight into your home each week.”

Netflix, like Blockbuster, offers the newest released videos.

The Netflix subscriber receives three DVDs via first-class mail within one or two business days and can keep them as long as theywant. When ready for a new video — any of the 15,000 titles — the subscriber sends the movie back to the company.

After the company receives the returned video, it immediately sends the subscriber a new one from its list of personal selected movies. According to the Web site, it’s like a revolving library.

The subscriber sends the video back in the same envelope it came in with free shipping and postage. Members receive their movies in a postage paid envelope, which, when opened, becomes the pre-paid return envelope.

In 2003, 278 million customers rented movies from an online service. All walk-in video stores, including Blockbuster, had more than 8 billion customers, Blockbuster spokeswoman Karen Raskopf said.

“Around 1982, videos exploded in a new way that was previously only able to be seen in theaters or when TV got the movie,” said Anthony Montesano, director of marketing and custom publishing for United Entertainment Media. Renting movies “has grown faster than anyone expected it to.”

Online rental services and video stores will be able to co-exist, said Larry Jaffee, editor of The Media Line.

“Some people won’t be able to get used to getting movies online,” he said.

But Blockbuster is realizing that some people prefer to use flat-rate rental services and, therefore, Blockbuster is planning to have an in-store subscription for $24.99 a month where customers can rent as many movies as they want, Raskopf said. Customers must go into the store to rent movies, but no due dates or late charges are imposed.

By the end of the year, Blockbuster also plans to have an online movie rental service where the movies would be mailed, she said. The shipping and postage, like with Netflix, will be included in the flat-rate fee.

The problem, Raskopf said, is that most people don’t plan ahead and end up waiting by the mailbox for the video and don’t want to be tied to flat-rate fees.

“However people want to get their movies, Blockbuster wants to be there,” Raskopf said.

Sometime in the future, Blockbuster will integrate the two services, Raskopf said. One day you can order a movie off the Web site and the next day you can get a movie in-store, all for a flat-rate fee, she said.

“Most people rent more movies in-store than online,” Raskopf said.

Blockbuster is also integrating the flat-rate fee program of $19.99 for games.

Netflix representatives were not available for comment.

With over 20 distribution centers in the United States, one in the Fort Worth-Dallas area, Netflix links over 1 million subscribers to its Internet service, according to the Web site, www.netflix.com.

“We have virtually every DVD published — everything from classics to new releases,” according to the Web site.

While the instant gratification of in-store movies cater to our desire for quick fixes and speedy desires, the Internet is slowly catching up with our yearns to be lazy.
 
 
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