Netflix vs Blockbuster (comparison)

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!

Background

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.

User Friendly

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.

Compatible Devices

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?

Titles

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!

Membership Perks

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. 

Content

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.

Quality

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!

Limitations

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!

Price

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.

Overall Winner

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.

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Kristie Bertucci

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.

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19 Comments

  1. DISH Network’s acquisition of Blockbuster has ruined the the service. I haven’t received a DVD via my [email protected] service for almost three weeks. When this service was merged with the DISH plan I recently signed up for, the DVD at home service got screwed up. System keeps showing I should receive a DVD and it never comes — or sometimes the system shows I’ve returned a DVD when I’d never received it in the first place! The “Report a Problem” link is worthless because it starts the cycle all over again (DVD never arrives or system shows I’ve returned it). I’ve contacted customer service multiple times and issue still isn’t resolved. Now there isn’t even any responses to the emails I sent to customer service. I predict the Blockbuster service will tank in the coming months — it’s a worthless service to me and I bet I’m not the only one. So sad — I’ve been a long-time Blockbuster customer but it really sucks now.

  2. I’ve been a Netflix user for over 5 years at the “3 at a time” level. Lately, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of damaged disk I’m sent. The last straw was tonight when I inserted a disk into my player and it didn’t play. I ejected it, and found that it was broken and that someone had glued it. So, I sealed it up to send it back. Then I inserted the 2nd disk in my player (after checking it for damage) and, not only would it not play but
    my player started thrashing like a washing machine with a bunch of nuts and bolts throw into it. I ejected the disk and it came out spinning and too hot to handle. Also, after it cooled down, I noticed that the disk had been badly scratched by my player. I called Netflix customer support (at 4:30 in the morning) and the support person (Andy) said that they could send me replacement disks but would not compensate me for the damage. I sort of expected that, but…
    When I asked to speak to his manager, HE REFUSED. AND WHEN I ASKED FOR HIS LAST NAME, HE REFUSED. SO, I CANCELLED MY SUBSCRIPTION. In the end, they’ll pay a lot more than the cost of a dvd player. What he did should be illegal.

  3. I live 3 hours from the Blockbuster facility and yet it takes them 3 days to get movies to me. Netflix on the otherhand gets them to me overnight from much further away and for less. Netflix has a much better selection of titles. Also Blockbuster doesn’t work on Saturday. This combined with the slow turnaround time means with a 3-at-a-time service I only get 3 movies per week even though I send them back the day after they arrive and they confirm receipt the day after that.

    1. The DVD rental service from Netflix is MUCH faster than Blockbuster in that they almost always send out the next disc in my queue the same day that they receive a disc I’ve returned. And, apparently because the Netflix distribution center is only 5 miles away from me, that is most often the very same day that I deposited the return disc in my home’s mailbox. And Netflix both receives returns, and mails new discs on Saturdays.

      With Blockbuster, I’ll deposit a return disc in my mailbox on Monday; it arrives on Tuesday; the next disc in my queue is sent on Wednesday, and arrives on Thursday. That it appears they don’t process anything on Saturdays or Sundays, makes their service that much slower than Netflix.

      For what’s it’s worth, I much prefer the rental of discs over the streaming of video over the internet because with a disc: (1) The quality of sound and picture is much better; (2) It’s easier and far faster to go back a few seconds, or to return to a previous scene, in order to hear or see something again; (3) There is no buffering; (4) There is no pixilating of the video; (5) There are no disruptions due to the overy frequent temporary internet service outages I enjoy with my service from Charter Communications, which can last from a few seconds, to hours, and sometimes up to 2 days.

      The only real downside for me with the rental of discs is that some discs arrive scratched, or cracked, and are unplayable.  Many of the Blu-ray discs I rented from Netflix in second half of 2011 arrived cracked.  And sometimes  the replacement discs were the same discs being sent again.  After 5 attempts with one title, I finally opened an account with Blockbuster in order to receive a playable disc, which is what led to my being able to evaluate their service.  Whatever issue was causing the cracked Blu-ray discs,  and return of the same damaged discs, seems to have been resolved, as I’ve not received a single cracked disc from Netflix during the year 2012.

  4. Funny how the author (Kristie) dunk points off Blockbuster just because it “isn’t available on any Apple devices”. Apple is just one company, a monopoly that makes proprietary OS on only the hardware they manufacture. While Android devices (phone, tablets, cars, TV, refrigerators, etc.) are made by many diverse manufacturers like Samsung, Dell, Motorola, Sony, HTC, LG, Asus, Acer, Sanyo, Toshiba, and many many more. Think Dictatorship vs. Democracy. To complain about just one manufacturer shows the author’s bias towards one company vs. numerous others. Even the latest market share shows that Android devices are twice that of iOS. Support for the mainstream Open Standard should be the norm instead of the proprietary. Just like movies are available on a standard Blu-ray player instead of the proprietary Toshiba’s HD-DVD player.

    1. It’s not just Apple products, Blockbuster is also not available on the PS3 or Xbox 360. These aren’t just manufacturers, these are major devices that it’s not compatible with. Apple is not just “one manufacturer”.. It’s a huge one. I mean did you even read the devices compatible with Netflix? Or did you just read the one part about Blockbuster not being available on Apple products? You’re doing the exact same thing you’re complaining about.

  5. what about the team up of blockbuster and dish network? blockbuster through dish offers 20 new channels, online streaming and mail order for $10 per month. It looks pretty good to me being a dish network customer. but i’m looking for more info if you have it. 

  6. sometimes the first thing we do when prices are raised is too look for a cheaper alternative. But as usual cheaper doesnt mean better. I Have had netflix for 2 years and yes I have seen the price increases and yes I suscribed to the blockbuster service 3 months ago…but kept my netflix services. so a little comparison for all. Disc by mail..netflix, I can mail a movie back on Wed and by Friday I have another movie(WOW), Mailed a disc back to blockbuster on same day, received my next disc the following Tuesday…REALLY? If a movie disc for netflix is on shortwait in my que, I can still expect to receive it in approx 2 weeks, blockbuster states the same…but I have had a disc on shortwait for over a month on my blockbuster list…im still waiting to get it. So even though it may release on blockbuster first..good luck getting it. Streaming…Movies on netflix streaming..what is available on your computer, you can watch on your TV or whatever device you use, and I am satisified with the large selection of titles. Blockbuster…what is available on your computer is not avaliable to your TV, 2 different list..what were they thinking..the titles on the TV..I have never heard of 90% of them and to put it honestly its crap…the selection on your PC is better but its kind of hard to get the family around the computer. Games!!!what can I say…Im an avid gamer and thought..YES, I can get all the movies and games too….NOT…I have 15 games on my blockbuster wait list….and I do mean WAITLIST…all of the games I want are on the short wait, and they have been since Dec, Its been 7 weeks since I have received a game. So overall..from this customer,,,,Blockbuster gets no TIES..they lose in every category except price…but if you compare the price for the service..Netflix still wins…..

    1. Thank you for posting about the slooowwwww mail in service.  From the day I mail in my DVD to the day I receive the next from Blockbuster is a full week.  I’m switching back to Netflix. 

  7. I had netflix until they raised the price from 9 bucks a month for a disc and instant streaming and have switched to blockbuster. I liked it in the beginning but since i have to pay for a lot of the preferred movie channels through dish I am pissed it is that way. A lot of the movies on the bb @ home are ones that o wouldn’t even watch. So unless there is another way to find these 100,000 titles that was mentioned in this article then I am reconsidering switching back to netflix

  8. Nice review of the two services, but I’m confused when you
    say that with Netflix you can have streaming and one disc rental for $7.99.
    According to their website (I double-checked because I thought I might have it
    wrong), it says that is their price for either streaming, or the one disc by
    mail service. So for both you’d be looking at $15.98. I’ve had both services,
    and the only thing I’d give Netflix the advantage in, is that it has more
    compatible devices. I’ll try not to sound biased, being that I’m an employee of
    DISH, but I’ve been using the new Blockbuster
    Movie Pass
    lately, and between that and Netflix there isn’t even a comparison.

    The Blockbuster
    Movie Pass
    gets me unlimited instant streaming, discs by mail with the option of in-store
    exchanges, and a bunch of high definition movie channels, all for 10 bucks a
    month. I love the way it’s rounded out my entertainment options.
     

  9. Switched from Netflix to Blockbuster about 4 months ago due to the poor content on their streaming service.  Im happy with Blockbuster at the moment.

    1. they are released before netflix, but good luck getting the title. I have been waiting on a movie for that was released for over a month. It says short wait, and according to blockbuster shortwait means 2 weeks…NOT!! more like 2 months. So while it may come avaliable before netflix, I still got it delivered to me by netflix before blockbuster, and yes I have both services but getting ready to cancel blockbuster. not woth the cheaper price!!!!!

      1. Had 40% failure rate with Netflix,Switched to Blockbuster and had 0% in Portland, ore. area. they were however slightly slower but getting ALL the way through a movie is supreme,vs half way through and total pixalation or stall,clean disc and samo,samo.

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