Redbox’s long-awaited streaming video service is almost here, thanks to a partnership with Verizon that was announced in July. I lucked out and got an invite to the service, which was launched in beta last month, and have played around with it a bit. Here’s what you need to know about Redbox Instant and how it stacks up against the competition.
The first thing most users will evaluate the service on is its pricing, and how it compares to offerings from Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. Redbox Instant has three pricing tiers, at $6, $8, and $9 a month. For $6, you get access to streaming only, from a fairly limited library of content — more on that later.
The $8 plan gives you unlimited streaming plus four kiosk rentals a month. That works out to a pretty good value for frequent Redbox renters, as each kiosk credit is good for a rental that usually costs $1.20 per day. For those who want to be able to rent Blu-ray discs, there’s a $9 per-month plan that is a somewhat better value, as you get four credits for Blu-ray rentals, which usually cost $1.50 per day.
In addition to the monthly subscription plan, there’s also an option to purchase or rent video-on-demand titles, with prices similar to those offered by Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, and iTunes. New release purchases typically cost $16.99 or $21.99, depending on whether they’re available in SD or HD. (Not all purchases are available in HD, and it’s not clear why or why not.) New release rentals typically cost $4.99 in SD or $5.99 in HD.
The first thing you should know is that the number of options under the streaming subscription is pretty limited, especially when compared to companies like Netflix or Amazon, which have been doing this for much longer. But that’s probably to be expected: After all, when Amazon announced the availability of video as part of its Prime subscription, the company came to market with just 3,000 titles. Over the past two years, it’s dramatically increased the number of options available, and I have no doubt that Redbox Instant will do just the same.
The other noticeable thing about the service’s content library is that there’s not much there that I can’t find through Netflix or Amazon. Key new-ish releases — such as Thor, for instance, or The Lincoln Lawyer — are available on both Netflix and Amazon. The reason for this is that their studios have output deals with Epix, and Epix has deals with both the big streaming providers. Not surprisingly, Epix is also a partner for Redox Instant.
Outside of that, though, there’s not a whole lot of content there today to compel a Netflix user to switch. That is, unless said user is also a big DVD kiosk user. If that’s the case, Redbox has hundreds of newer DVDs and Blu-rays that it can offer at convenient locations nearby.
As of now, it appears that Redbox Instant only supports mobile devices and tablets, like the iPad, iPhone, and various Android devices. I’ve tested it out on my laptop, on my iPad, and on my iPhone, and it worked well on all of them. There’s even the ability to start watching on one device and pick up on another.
On PCs, Redbox Instant relies on Silverlight — the same plugin that Netflix uses — presumably due to DRM concerns. On the iOS devices I tested the service out on, playback was done through a video player within the app. Playback works on both Wi-Fi and wireless (even 3G!) networks.
While the company says it will support devices such as Samsung Blu-ray Players and TVs, LG Smart TV and Blu-ray Players, and Google TV, the Redbox Instant website currently only shows availability on the mobile devices and tablets above. Likely its device footprint will expand as time goes on.
At this point, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to roll out a streaming subscription service that will truly compete with Netflix. Amazon has tried, and so has Blockbuster. Each has different advantages: For Amazon, there’s a slightly lower price due to its $79 annual fee and bundling with Amazon Prime subscription. For Blockbuster, the service is packaged with its existing pay TV service, meaning no need to pay more than one video provider.
For Redbox, the Instant service is a way to get more money out of existing heavy users and to convert them from analog to digital streamers. Note that this was a novel idea back in 2008 or so, when Netflix first started doing it. But we’ve come a long way since then. The question is whether Redbox Instant can convert video streaming customers to DVD kiosk users; on this front, I think they’ll have a difficult go of it.
For the most part, if users are already streaming video, they’re probably unlikely to switch to Redbox. But if they aren’t, the value of streaming-plus-DVD probably isn’t that bad of a deal. It’s already a crowded space, and while Redbox Instant will continue to improve, the early lead Netflix has, combined with the existence of at least two other serious competitors, means that the Verizon/Redbox joint venture is probably too little, too late.
Editor’s Notes: John C. Zolper, Ph.D. is the Vice President of Research and Development at Raytheon, an American corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military and commercial electronics. So yeah, neat stuff.
I’ve got a riddle for you. What do Blu-ray disks, military radars and LED light bulbs have in common? Chances are, if you work outside of the defense or electronics sectors, you may not easily make the connection. But the common thread is a little-known technology called Gallium Nitride (GaN for short). GaN is evolving rapidly behind the scenes to transform many aspects of modern day life, while also serving vitally important roles within our nation’s military.
There have been a lot of complaints voiced over the last couple of years from people who wish entrepreneurs would address the world’s “real problems” or do “something bigger” rather than create “me too” applications and websites. I’m not a fan of that sentiment but that’s really a whole other post I need to write. In all honesty, there’s a place and need in the world for all sorts of business visions – big and small.
And after watching a “big vision” TED talk from a few years ago, it has changed my life. Jane McGonigal presented this idea: Millions of people around the world are becoming gaming and computer virtuosos. Through video games, people journey to alternate “worlds” where they have epic journeys and become heroes. What if we tapped into that talent and desire for a world changing quest to change our own? What if we changed the idea behind gaming completely to create games that directly had a real world impact?
While at a recent Wild-Aid fundraising event, I was thumbing through the live auctions and found a company called The Blu that is trying to do just that. Created by Academy Award winner Andy Jones (for Avatar), a digital whale named “Big Blu” takes followers on a journey through a digital ocean that the creators hope will teach us all about our underwater counterparts and why we might want to save whales and their underwater friends. I was intrigued, and the whale, in fact, sold for a whopping $10,000. Proceeds go towards both the team behind Big Blu Wild-Aid’s outreach efforts.
Having been so enthralled by the concept, I was determined to meet the founders, so I sent this tweet:
Within 10 minutes, they were at my table. We chatted about the broader goals of The Blu and we talked about Jane’s vision, which they shared. The Blu is a beautiful digital ocean with revenue sharing for both the digital artists that create the fish and ocean life and the partner ocean conservation organizations around the world that support the educational mission. It’s not exactly a game, but it is a real-time immersive experience that by itself is a big idea and can become much bigger.
Revenue sharing with non-profits through games is not a new idea. Zynga raised millions for Haiti and has had other such fund-raising initiatives behind their games, but this is one of the first games/platforms that I’ve seen that specifically is targeting changing something tangible in the real world, and where the product experience is truly aligned with that mission.
Towards the end of our discussion, it occurred to me that they should talk to Dr. Sylvia Earle. She’s a personal hero of mine and this seemed right up her alley with what she’s trying to accomplish. Dr. Sylvia Earle won the TED Prize for her wish to protect our oceans. Sylvia has spent over 50 years exploring and working on ocean exploration and conservation. She spearheaded the Google Ocean initiative to help go beneath the water’s surface in order to help give the world access to what she sees on her regular ocean dives, so that we can help her in her quest to save it.
They were already on it; I had somehow stumbled into a breaking story.
Sylvia teamed up with Sir Richard Branson, Jackson Browne, Dr. Rita Colwell, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Graeme Kelleher, Sven Lindblad, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Nainoa Thompson, Ted Turner, Captain Don Walsh, Neil Young and Gigi Brisson (the founder) to create the Ocean Elders, a group based off Richard Branson’s idea of elders who help guide world leaders and world issues, but specifically focused on the ocean.
These elders are going to get on The Blu, June 8th, in honor of World Oceans Day and interact with members during the launch (remember the digital whale?) into the digital wild. You can ask live questions and join them on their mission to save the ocean.
From their press release they are going to send out after this post:
What: OceanElders, WildAid, and theBlu.com are holding a global online celebration at theblu.com, in honor of World Oceans Day, June 8, 2012. Entitled, “If You Love The Ocean, Download It!” Interested parties are encouraged to start registering immediately to ensure best interaction with the celebrities and leading ocean advocates expected to participate.
I’m so excited about this. I’ve downloaded The Blu and it runs as a screen saver so you are constantly reminded of our beautiful and bountiful ocean that is sometimes too out of sight and out of mind. I plan on sponsoring loads of little digital fish and I will follow the company closely to see how they evolve.
Even though 70% of the earth’s surface is water, if you took all of it and put it in a sphere of its own, it is quite small in comparison to the Earth. 860 miles in diameter, it is one of the single most important resources to our planet and human-kind, yet no one owns any of it and therefore it has very little protection. Thank you team Blu for dreaming big and using the virtual metaphor to make preservation of the ocean more real.
See original here: What’s Big, Blue, Hopes To Save Our Planet And Is Not Facebook?