First, there were the locally owned and operated Mom and Pop video-rental stores. Then, corporate behemoths Blockbuster and Hollywood Video came out of the sky, struck down those shops and became kings of the movie-rental industry. It was a long, unchallenged reign, but they eventually faced a competitor: a little company called Netflix that offered DVD rentals through the mail. "What foolhardiness is this?" Blockbuster and Hollywood cried, unaware that less than a decade later, one of them would be dead and the other mortally wounded.
The point of this ancient parable is that it's difficult to stay on top forever. If you do something right, someone is bound to replicate your methods, possibly even improve on them, and then attempt to viciously dethrone you. Netflix, with its powerful Instant Watch, may be the current leader of the Rental Empire, but according to the L.A. Times, that vicious little neighboring city-state, Redbox, is looking to confront them directly with an online movie-streaming service of its own.
Ladies and gentlemen, prepare for war.
Although the details of Redbox's planned streaming system are scarce, what we do know sounds very much like Netflix's lauded system: a subscription-based system that will allow customers to stream a wide selection of movies and (we can assume) television on their computers, televisions and select mobile devices. Hey, if it isn't broken...
It's a natural progression. Redbox's sales are down, and people are embracing the simplicity of instant online streaming. Watching (and buying) movies on DVD and Blu-ray has increasingly become more niche, for movie nerds and media collectors only. Most of all, Netflix has remained mostly unchallenged in the online rental field, allowing them to raise prices and remove features because no one can stand in their way. Insert bone-chilling laugh here.
However, this will be a war fought on several fronts. Amazon has announced plans for an online streaming system for its Prime users, which would actually cost less than a yearly Netflix subscription. And we mustn't forget Hulu, who, in addition to having a virtual monopoly on Television streaming, have recently partnered with the Criterion Collection, making their Hulu Plus a no-brainer for anyone interested in watching nearly one thousand of the greatest films ever made.
Of course, all of these competitors will be facing a veteran player with an already well-established name and library of available titles (Redbox and Amazon are still working on deals with the major studios to gain film rights, and there are rumors the two may even form a partnership), but a little competition never hurt anyone. Heck, maybe we'll see some prices drop as these companies struggle to grab your attention and earn your cash. Brick and mortar rental stores may be on their way out, but the war over where you'll rent your movies looks to be just heating up.