New release from Blockbuster: The staff
As many of us have heard, DVD rental firm Blockbuster have recently entered bankruptcy and gone into administration. Unlike the immediate closure of Jessops stores when they closed their doors earlier in January, Blockbuster stores will soldier on until such a time as a kind soul with more money than sense buys them out (Morrisons has recently bought 49 of Blockbuster’s 528 stores to expand its convenience business).
The most interesting part of the story however, is what events led to the failure of Blockbuster? Once the UK’s most popular visual media outlet, how have they failed to maintain their seemingly infallible business approach?
Illogical is the fact that Blockbuster kept up ‘late fees’ for so long. With instant services such as Netflix and Lovefilm offering unlimited movie streaming for £5.99/month and £4.99/month respectively, why leave your house to rent a DVD only to get slammed with a late fee if you leave it stuck in your player for a couple of days?
Ask yourself, when did you last rent a film? By ‘renting’, I mean, of course, trudging out of the cozy confines of your living room to begrudgingly hand over a few quid to a member of staff who appears to be held against his will, almost urging you to move forward with your life and get yourself into the 21st century. That kind of renting. Never, I’m assuming.
The difficulties Blockbuster faced to maintain a profitable business were not down to their own failings however; instead they were symptomatic of the film industry as a whole.
With Netflix recently clocking in with 33m global users (as of January 2013) and even by 2010 iTunes controlling over 65% of online movie sales, it’s not difficult to see where the market is moving. Customers want convenience, and convenience is gained through a one-click purchase and an easy download, not a depressing hike into town to rent a battered old DVD case.
Personally, I subscribe to Lovefilm instant at present – for a mere fiver a month I can watch as many films as my heart desires. Sure, the choice of titles is limited and the streaming quality operates on a scale of poor to….poor, but it’s the ease of use that makes it a winning service.
Netflix is also excellent in this respect, but for us folk in the UK, the selection is brief unless you’re willing to dive into a world of obscure American TV shows and films with “SUPER” preceding every word in the title. It’s also a whole pound more expensive. A handy pound for sure, if you’re still driving to your local Blockbuster.
For an extra £5, I can have DVDs and Blu-rays delivered to my door hassle-free from Lovefilm. Blockbuster offer this service for an identical price, minus the instant streaming, and this may be a lifeline for securing their future.
Granted, it’s a tad depressing that the shelves of Currys and Comet will soon be totally replaced by the digital shelves of Amazon, and the battered shelves of Blockbuster will be replaced with the tidy shelves of online streaming services, but convenience is the order of the day for modern retail and media consumption.
Do you think the failure of Blockbuster’s high street stores is a sign of progress for digital media, or a sad reminder that we’re all soon to become digital automatons? Comment below with your thoughts.