Sunday, May 3, 2009

Netflix, Flexplay, and RedBox

I'm currently a Netflix subscriber (cheap plan, 1 out at a month unlimited with Blu-Ray = $10.99/month). I average about 3 movies a month. This means each movie costs me about $3.65 to watch. Whenever possible I watch them in BluRay format. 

The other day I noticed how many RedBox outlets there are around where I travel. Gas stations, grocery stores etc. With RedBox you pay $1/night and you can reserve movies. They have pretty current movies, but no BluRay options. There's no subscription fees and you only pay for what you use. This could possibly drop my monthly cost, but i'd have to know in advance that i'd be able to watch a movie in a given night or i'd end up paying for an extra night (and feel the pressure to watch soon). The fact that the price can stack up if you don't watch it once you take it out puts me off. The lack of BluRay is disappointing too. 

Shortly after running into RedBox I noticed a 48-hour self destructing DVD option at Staples called FlexPlay. It chemically self destructs its playability (in a way that doesn't break your DVD player) 48 hours after you open it. Staples generally sells the disks for $1. The outlets aren't as convenient (in this case tied to Staples store hours) and the movies aren't usually as new as Netflix and RedBox (or updated as frequently). On the positive side your expense is capped at $1/movie and you can "queue" them up by buying several and having them handy and watch whatever suits your mood. If you rent via their web site they "rent" the movies at $4.99, they're not going to win the war with that kind of pricing. At $1 and with more outlets I can see how they could be competitive with RedBox. With the limited availability, older movies, and poor pricing direct they're out.

Ok, you're probably wondering why I dont just do video-on-demand and pay just for what I watch. A couple reasons, my bankruptcy-declaring cable company charges $5.99 per rental (HD). Thats more than my average cost via NetFlix. In addition, their movie selection is worse than Netflix and RedBox. And finally about 50% of the time there are issues with the video on demand playback.

Currently NetFlix appears to be the best option as it gives me the most flexibility when I play the movies and the quality/availability of what I want. Its largest downside is the fact that I have to wait 3-4 days after watching one to watch another. I could pay more to have more flexibility but given how few I watch it doesnt seem worth it. If someone could deliver HD video on demand at an equivalent cost to NetFlix then i'd switch but given where I live and the monopoly of the local TV provider, i'm stuck for a while.