By Jerome Stuart Nichols | Life Editor
Added October 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm
For a myriad of reasons, getting access to the movies and TV shows you want is an awkward and cumbersome experience. Some sites have the content you want, but you have to pay-per-stream, which can be prohibitively expensive for most college students. Other sites offer unlimited streaming, but their selections are anemic and constantly fluctuating for reasons too complicated and boring to figure out.
With all the uncertainty, it can be difficult to figure out who offers the best combination of convenience, price, selection and a great user experience.
With more than 25 million subscribers as of June 2011, Netflix is by far the most popular. But is it really the best? Blockbuster is a brand many people know and loathe, but does strong brand identity also come with a great user experience? In this battle, Netflix is the contender to beat. Does this fresh face have what it takes to keep its lead, or will the movie rental titan Blockbuster soon be knocking the wind out of its bright red sails?
Round 1: Selection
According to Netflix fan blog FeedFllicks, as of Sept. 11th 2011, Netflix has more than 130,000 titles in its catalog. Its DVD catalog accounts for a hefty 102,000 of those titles. But even with only 28,000 streaming titles, 4,315 of them available in HD, it is still the largest.
Blockbuster has only managed to get a paltry 4,000 films in its streaming library. But, it matches Netflix’s DVD-by-mail selection with approximately 100,000 in its own DVD catalog.
In the DVD-by-mail game, both companies have a great selection of current hits and classics. But, in the streaming game Blockbuster can breathe a sigh of relief. In my experience, Blockbuster online had a slightly more robust selection of modern hits than the boys in red. That being said, its slightly better selection of modern hits doesn’t quite make up for the vast selection of films in Netflix’s collection.
Round 1 goes to Netflix for its superior numbers.
*Netflix – 4.0/5 *
Blockbuster – 3.4/5
Round 2: Convenience
When it comes to convenience, what can be easier than turning on your TV and pressing a big, red Netflix-dedicated button on your remote? That’s exactly the sort of integration Netflix has been able to accomplish. It has partnered with LG and Best Buy’s store brand, Insignia, to bring you the simplest one-touch access to Netflix’s online streaming catalog.
Beyond TV integration, Netflix has partnered with a huge variety of hardware and software manufacturers for easy access to its services. As of this month, they have more than 200 different devices through which you can get your Netflix streaming service.
That’s not including streaming through your browser and its original DVD-by-mail service that revolutionized the movie rental industry.
Blockbuster has copied Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service and raised the bar with in-store returns and exchanges for even more convenient and speedy DVD by mail service. When the turnaround for a DVD through mail is about three business days, you could potentially get 10 times the movies by utilizing the selection of your neighborhood Blockbuster store. Its DVD-by-mail service has the added benefit of receiving certain new releases 28 days earlier than Netflix. It also includes access to a selection of a few hundred video games.
While its DVD-by-mail program is stellar, Blockbuster’s streaming is downright embarrassing. Netflix has dedicated apps on every mobile phone platform (except Nokia’s Symbian platform), gaming console and tablet device, as well as TV, DVD/BluRay players and set-top boxes from every major manufacturer.
Blockbuster has decided to go the indie route, locking up deals with more than 100 second-and third-tier providers and manufacturers, including a recent deal with Dish Network. The indie-darling route might have done wonders for Zoey Deschanel’s career, but it’s doing nothing for Blockbuster’s reputation.
Round 2 goes to Netflix for its industry-leading steaming accessibility and highly polished DVD-by-mail service.
Netflix – 4
Blockbuster – 3
Round 3: Pricing
In recent months, Netflix has found itself in hot water with its customers due to its 60% price increase and separation of DVD-by-mail and streaming plans. But the hullabaloo seems to be overblown – Its unlimited streaming and one DVD out-at-a-time plan are only $7.99/month each. Its combined plan cost is $15.98/month.
If you want an extra DVD it will cost you an extra $5/month and if you want BluRay discs, when available, you’ll pay an extra
Netflix: 2 DVDs out-at-a-time (unlimited) Unlimited on-demand streaming BluRay = $22.98/month.
Blockbuster has never been known for low pricing in its retail outlets, but its online presence and competition from online competitors like Netflix has forced it to bring its prices in line with the current market.
Its single DVD out-at-a-time plan comes in at $9.99/month. If you want a second DVD, the price goes up to $14.99/month. With the DVD plan, there is no extra cost for BluRay discs or video games. Blockbuster doesn’t offer an unlimited streaming plan. You have to rent each movie á la carte.
New releases ring up at a hefty $3.99 each, while second-run films and classics can cost as little as $1.99 and as much as $2.99.
Blockbuster – 2 DVD’s out-at-a-time (Unlimited) 2 new-release films per month BluRay Games = $22.97/month.
In this round, the win comes down to personal preference.
Netflix – 4.5
Blockbuster – 4.5
With a score of 4.2/5 (averaged to the nearest tenth), the winner is Netflix (Blockbuster 3.6/5), but that’s not the whole story.
When you take the best parts of each company, the customer comes out on top. There is no selection of online streaming titles as robust as Netflix’s, but Blockbuster’s convenient DVD-by-mail service with in-store exchanges, game rental and BluRay discs far out-paces Netflix. If you want the best overall experience, go for Netflix Streaming and Blockbuster Total Access for $22.98/month.
If you don’t care about video games and there are no Blockbuster retail outlets in your area, you might benefit from the $2/month savings on DVDs and single movie recommendation engine to personalize your movie watching experience Netflix provides.