Ubiquitous among things involving screens and an Internet connection, Netflix has become one of the most widely used apps on today’s consoles — streaming unlimited hours and bytes of movies and TV shows instantly from its digital library, all at a minimum monthly subscription price of $7.99.
Soon, however, the ambient soundtrack of most of your friends list’s sleep will be getting some heavy competition. Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb (AKA Major Nelson) has announced that Redbox — known for its prevalent dollar-and-some-change DVD/Blu-Ray rental kiosks at American grocery stores and fast food restaurants — will be launching Redbox Instant, its own video streaming service, on the Xbox 360 “in the near future.” Redbox later confirmed to IGN that additional gaming platforms will receive the service at a later date.
Redbox Instant is still in the private beta phase — the joint venture between Redbox and Verizon first began internal testing in July 2012 — and according to Major Nelson, existing members will be emailed a unique access code for the Xbox 360 app “in the coming days.” Anyone who is not currently a beta participant can request entry at the Redbox Instant website, although acceptance is no guarantee.
And whenever Redbox Instant does roll out to the public, it could pose a significant threat to Netflix on day one. Just look at its plan.
Rather than dividing physical and digital subscribers into two distinct membership tiers — as Netflix did in 2011 when it siphoned off its mail-delivery business — Redbox is hoping to offer the best of both worlds: At $8 (for DVD’s) or $9 (for Blu-Ray’s) per month, subscribers would receive 4 one-night rental credits, redeemable at any kiosk, and unlimited streaming from Redbox’s movie catalougue, which intends to target more modern, popular releases — or, in other words, the titles you can’t line up in your Netflix Instant Queue. (As of right now, Redbox has secured content deals with EPIX, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Relativity and Sony Pictures.)
Furthermore, Redbox Instant would allow anyone, regardless of subscription status, to rent or purchase the latest Redbox movies digitally as they become available at kiosks; this, too, according to Major Nelson, will be a function of the Xbox 360 app.
Even if Redbox does slice into Netflix’s console clout, though, only time will tell which business model reigns supreme. For one, Netflix Instant still has an expansive movie and TV backlog that, lets face it, plays perfectly into a rainy-day movie marathon or catching up on entire shows (missed Lost? Here’s 120 episodes!). It’s also privy to Netflix’s new zeal for producing original series, such as last year’s Lilyhammer, last week’s Kevin Spacey political drama House of Cards, or May’s upcoming Season 4 of Arrested Development. As the next generation of consoles emerges, its architects seeking to engage a broader spectrum of audiences, it’s entirely possible that both entertainment services will coexist and thrive.
Ranters, will you be signing up for Redbox Instant when (or before) it arrives on gaming platforms? Would it mean parting ways with Netflix, or another online-streaming competitor like Amazon Instant?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.