Friday, October 8, 2010

Would you pay more than $1 a night for the latest DVDs?

Posted by OurTech Team | Friday, October 8, 2010 | Category: , |

For now, DVD rental kiosks like Redbox and Blockbuster Express are holding the line for nightly movie rentals at a buck — well, aside from a little tinkering here and there. But now comes word that Blockbuster Express and Universal are testing whether customers would pay as much as $3 a night to bring home the studio’s just-released DVDs.

So says the Los Angeles Times, which reports that as part of its new distribution deal with Universal — which, by the way, calls for the now-familiar 28-day window before the studio will allow buck-a-night rentals of its latest movies — Blockbuster Express operator NCR has agreed to test "premium" pricing for rentals of Universal DVDs that have just arrived in stores. (Just to be clear, Blockbuster Express kiosks are owned and operated by NCR, not the floundering Blockbuster Inc.)

Here’s how it’ll work, according to the L.A. Times: Blockbuster Express kiosks in certain test markets (NCR wouldn’t reveal which ones) will offer specific just-released Universal DVDs for rent before the usual 28-day release window is up — but for a "premium" price, perhaps as much as $3 for the first night, followed by slightly lower prices (maybe $2) for additional nights.

Once the 28-day new-release window has passed, the "premium" rental prices would fall back to earth — that is, the usual $1 a night — the Times reports. (Blu-ray rentals usually cost more—$1.50 a night in the case of Redbox.)

The idea, of course, is to see whether movie lovers would be willing to pay extra to rent, say, "Robin Hood" or "Get Him to the Greek" on the day those DVDs arrive in stores rather than having to wait a month, as required by the new pact between Universal and NCR.

The big Hollywood studios have been insisting on 28-day release windows for Redbox as well, although there’s no word whether Redbox — which has been quietly testing higher DVD rental prices in various markets over the past several months — would also try the "premium" pricing plan.

All these 28-day windows and "premium" rental testing stem from the growing concern of Hollywood execs over the cheap buck-a-night rental pricing so beloved by DVD kiosk fans.

The big studios are worried that the sight of their latest movies in buck-a-night rental kiosks will "devalue" their movies and further cut into their dwindling DVD revenue, and they’re hoping that home-video fanatics desperate to see the latest DVDs will buy them in stores rather than wait for the 28-day window to end.

But whether that’s an effective strategy is, of course, an open question.

Based on what I’ve heard from many of readers out there, you’re really not that interested in paying more to see the latest DVDs and Blu-rays on Day One; after all, most of us already have a backlog of movies we want to rent from Redbox, Netflix or Blockbuster Express, and then there’s the DVR queue, Xbox, PlayStation, movies on demand, you name it.

Now, I might be willing to pay more to rent a DVD or Blu-ray early for a special movie, a recent must-see that really made the grade, such as ... um, I’m thinking ...

Enough about me, though. Would you pay $3 a night to rent a just-released DVD from a kiosk, one for which you’d normally have to wait 28 days?

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