This morning Microsoft announced that Redbox Instant, the streaming video service born from those big red video dispensaries you see outside of various stores like McDonalds and Wal-Greens, will be coming exclusively to the Xbox 360. As you’d expect, Xbox 360 owners were pleased with this news, while Sony and Nintendo fans were once again disappointed by yet another media option their gaming machine of choice simply doesn’t support.
At least, that’s how it seems at first glance. Like many of the Xbox 360’s “exclusive” releases (the most publicized arguably being the exclusivity deals for Call of Duty’s DLC, which give Xbox owners a month of exclusive access), Redbox Instant will be available on other consoles at some point in the future. Microsoft and Verizon, who operates the Redbox Instant service thanks to a partnership, have agreed to a timed exclusivity agreement. The length of the exclusivity is unknown, but it could range from a month to a year. The last six months have been tough for Redbox. Coinstar, the owner of Redbox, reported losses in the last two quarters of 2012 and claimed that a poor release lineup was to blame. The partnership with Microsoft is certainly going to give the service a shot in the arm, but it’s unlikely that Coinstar would want to limit the service’s appeal to only one gaming console.
And what exactly is Redbox Instant? Simply put, it’s an alternative to the Netflix app which is so popular among console users. Like that application, Redbox Instant will allow users to stream films and television through their consoles. The total cost will be $8 per month, assuming you have all of the necessary hardware. Also like Netflix, Redbox Instant allows subscribers to view actual, physical retail disc-based films, which can be found in the now familiar boxes that are… well, red.
Redbox was recently at the center of lawsuits against Fox, Warner Bros., and Universal pictures who refused to allow the service to rent their movies for at least 28 days after release. These suits actually led to a closer look at the distribution contracts, and Redbox soon signed deals with the Sony, Paramount, Lionsgate, and Disney. Eventually Warner Bros, Fox, and Universal entered into agreements as well, but retained the 28 day buffer. Despite the delay of many new releases, this massively expanded Redbox’s library and allowed it to create the Redbox streaming service, which is poised to be a direct competitor to Netflix.
Redbox Instant is currently being beta tested, but expect more info on the imminent app very soon. Hopefully the next big reveal to emerge from this project does something to wash away the cynicism spawned by today’s announcement.