Bankruptcy Looms for Blockbuster – Still Hoping For Digital Push

17 Mar

Similar to how companies like Xerox became interchangeable lingo for their respective product, Blockbuster was once the synonymous with video rentals. Times, however, have changed.

This year the brand sustained a $435 million fourth quarter loss. Indeed, the digital age hasn’t been friendly to the former “Be Kind Rewind” mammoth – forcing it to close down most locations, cut its inventory, and even file for bankruptcy in some countries. While it hasn’t officially filed for bankruptcy in the United States, at this pace, it only appears to be inevitable.

But how could Blockbuster possibly compete with Netflix, the flat-rate online service that allows users to rent movies or watch streaming videos on their computers? Even before Netflix, most cable providers offered on-demand channels that enabled users to choose from a variety of reasonably priced movies – and many free ones, too.

Netflix and on-demand have kept casual movie watchers on their sofas, and though Blockbuster also developed a digital version of its rental system, the attempt has been labeled “late to the digital game” and inferior. But Blockbuster isn’t giving up.

“When you’re driving down Main Street and you see that Blockbuster brand, you know it’s the place to rent movies,” said Blockbuster CEO, Jim Keyes. “The same experience we think will be true on the Internet. There will be a vast array of people offering movies. Blockbuster is a very reliable brand, so we think that the future is bright for us once we are able to make that transformation.”

Keyes’ optimism may not be unfounded. Blockbuster – along with Netflix and Amazon Video – will soon be featured as on-demand options for TiVo’s new “Premiere.” Granted, it’s not as significant as an exclusive agreement, but its inclusion in such an outlet could provide the bump Blockbuster needs.

Only time will tell if TiVo Premiere’s subscribers will use Blockbuster over its fierce competition, but at this point for the dwindling rental company, every click counts.

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