Long gone are the days of walking into a video store to rent movies, mostly due in part to services like Netflix, who put the likes of Hollywood Video out of business and even heavily bruised Blockbuster’s net income. But Blockbuster wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and even though they’ve cut back on the number of stores, they’ve introduced their own Internet streaming/rental service similar to Netflix’s. So which of the two provides you more entertainment bang for your buck? Read on to see how each of the streaming/rental disc services measure up!
Blockbuster became the mega giant of video rentals and immediately stomped out mom & pop video stores everywhere. Funny that Netflix sort of did the same to them. But instead of totally taking it up the a**, they decided to fight back and launched their own rental service very similar to how Netflix does things (but only after they filed for Chapter 11 and were sold to satellite provider Dish Network). Basically, both require a monthly membership fee where you can automatically stream a selection of movies, documentaries and TV shows from your computer and/or any compatible devices or place an order for a mail-in movies.
Once you become a member for Netflix, all you have to do is go online to watch unlimited movies or shows. You simply type in a password and volia! You’re able to watch favorites or new titles instantly on your computer or any of the compatible devices like Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, etc. Fairly simple, right? Users also have the option to request an actual DVD of their choice from their “wish list” via mail. With no mail-back deadlines or due dates, you can keep the movie for as long as you want. When you finally send it back, you can then order another one.
The reinvigorated Blockbuster first crept up on Netflix when it decided to deliver DVDs by mail with its Total Access program. But now their program also includes instant streaming movies, as well as the ability to exchange a mailed disc in an actual Blockbuster store if they don’t want to wait on the mailman. For its online streaming service, you simply log into your account and choose the movie or show you want…but, it’s a pay-per-view on-demand service (more on this later).
Winner: Tie since all you have to do is log in to your account to get full access.
Netflix allows you to stream movies on your computer and a bunch of other devices like: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, iOS devices, select Android-based phones and tablets, the Windows Phone, some Internet-connected Blu-ray players and some Internet –connected HDTVs, TiVo or Roku, D-Link, home theater systems from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Insignia. You can also connect multiple devices to one account and even jump from device to device, resuming exactly where you left off on the last device.
Blockbuster’s On Demand streaming plan is supported by far fewer devices than Netflix. In addition to the traditional computer, Blockbuster’s online program is available to many TiVo DVRs and some Blu-ray players, some connected TVS, and WD TV set-top boxes. It also streams on some Android mobile phones and tablets, BUT isn’t available on any Apple devices so that eliminates the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. Yeah, a total setback here!
Winner: Netflix takes the cake here. Really, Blockbuster…no Apple-compatible devices other than a computer?
Netflix has more than 100,000 movies and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray, including unrated and NC-17 movies. Their streaming title selection is quoted as having “tens of thousands” of titles available on demand (both movies and TV episodes) with HD options. Blockbuster also boasts more than 100,000 movies and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray, including unrated movies plus 3,000 video games. But some exclusive titles are actually available 28 days before Netflix on Blockbuster’s disc rental program.
Winner: Blockbuster’s ability to offer some exclusive titles almost a month before Netflix and provide video games wins here!
Blockbuster allows for in-store disc exchange for its Total Access program, so that you don’t have to mail in discs if you don’t want and can simply do a rental exchange in a participating store near you. And for gamers out there, Blockbuster includes game titles, which is a huge plus!
Winner: Blockbuster’s in-store disc exchange offers instant gratification since you can walk into a store to get new rentals AND it offers game rentals, so Blockbuster has the edge on this one.
Netflix has lined up some pretty good content deals as of lately, so you’ll find a good selection of shows from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and BBC libraries. They also have deals with Sony, NBC Universal and DreamWorks Animation, which is totally exclusive (but it won’t kick in until 2013). For Blockbuster’s pay-per-rental catalog, expect all the new titles, movies and shows on the market, given you still have to pay for each movie you want to watch for a 24-hour viewing period.
Winner: Blockbuster may offer more content options for its On Demand program, but it comes at a price. Netflix’s “all you can watch” streaming option offers thousands of movies and TV shows for a flat monthly rate, making it the winner.
Speed of Service
According to Netflix, their movies and shows start playing within seconds. However, the speed of service will really depend on your Internet speed and connection. Movies & TV episodes are streaming over the Internet, so you don’t have to wait for them to download. Watching for 1 hour will use approximately 1GB of bandwidth or about 2GB if you are watching in HD (you have the option to opt out of this if you). Netflix recommends that users have a minimum speed of 500kbps (0.5MB). Blockbuster’s streaming movies are about the same.
Winner: Tie…but honestly, Netflix will probably be more reliable and faster given it’s been around longer. Again, we haven’t tested this and is our opinion.
Netflix is capable of streaming 1080p video, but that’s if your device supports it and your Internet is fast enough to deliver this. Blockbuster also has 1080p and both have HD options, as well as Blu-ray disc options.
Winner: Tie again!
Netflix was going to separate its streaming program with its disc rental one, but after a huge outcry from members, decided to keep its membership fee to include both (but they did raise the price). Blockbuster’s perk of having in-store exchanges for its disc program has some limitations since not all stores allow in-store exchanges and discs from a certain store must be returned to that same store later. But that’s not all. Their streaming content is totally separate (which is part of their Total Access plan) from their On Demand program. You have to pay $299-$399 per-title rentals, with $10.99 and up on VOD purchases (but you can rent or buy, with rentals having a 24-hour viewing period). Netflix offers unlimited viewing on multiple devices for streaming content BUT most new-to-DVD movies
Winner: Netflix all the way!
For $7.99, you can watch unlimited movies and TV shows with a Netflix membership OR opt for their unlimited one-disc at a time rental service ($11.99 for 2 unlimited). If you want to opt for unlimited streaming and a one-disc rental, the price is $15.98 a month. You can add access to Blu-ray discs to your account at any time for an additional $2 a month. Blockbuster charges $2.99-$3.99 per-title rentals, $9.99 for their disc rental (one at a time, $14.99 for too discs) and $10.99 and up VOD purchases.
Winner: Netflix since it provides more bang for you buck.
Sorry Blockbuster, but it seems that Netflix will still kick your ass even though you’ve revamped your services. Blockbuster may offer more titles and a lot more recent ones, its pay-per-title is a total turnoff. Netflix still offers more for less money a month.
Kristie Bertucci is an L.A.-based writer, who can't live without her MacBook Pro. When she's not writing, she's either reading or shopping (online, of course) and loves lazy days so she can catch up on her DVR-recorded shows and movies. She's definitely a Mac girl, she loves music and is currently on a mission to to have an insane and enviable iTunes library.