Announced on the official company site, Redbox Instant by Verizon shifted from a closed beta to an open beta earlier today. After approximately three months of closed beta testing, anyone can now sign up for the one-month free trial of the service to check out the streaming content library as well as take advantage of the included movie rentals at Redbox kiosks. A subscription to Redbox Instant includes four, one-night DVD rentals each month as well as access to unlimited streaming video for a monthly fee of eight dollars. In addition, subscribers can spend an additional dollar a month to upgrade the plan to cover Blu-ray rentals.
While the price of the service is in line with Netflix and Hulu Plus, the volume of streaming video content available on Redbox Instant pales in comparison to competitors. However, the 4,600 titles available at launch is roughly the same number that Amazon offered when launching Amazon Instant Video to Prime customers during 2011. In addition, Redbox Instant management is currently focusing on providing movies over television shows, quite the opposite from a service like Netflix.
While Verizon and Redbox will likely expand the volume of content available for streaming, the value proposition of the service exists more for current Redbox kiosk customers that rent multiple titles a month. In regards to this component of the service, Redbox Instant CEO Shawn Strickland told the Seattle Times “There’s a core group of DVD lovers who really see the value. They see the value of the four credits and the streaming looks like a very affordable add- on.”
In addition to the free rentals, Redbox Instant customers can also use the site to reserve specific titles at a nearby kiosk in order to secure a movie for the night. Additional nights will be charged to the subscriber at the standard rates if the discs are not returned by the following day.
At the moment, Redbox and Verizon are relying on EPIX and Warner Brothers to provide a great deal of streaming content. Subscribers can also purchase over 4,000 premium rentals from studios like Lionsgate, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. However, the cost of the premium content isn’t different when compared to services, like iTunes or Vudu, that do not require a subscription.
In order to access the streaming component of Redbox Instant, subscribers will be able to find a Redbox Instant application on select Samsung smart televisions and Blu-ray players. In addition, the application can be accessed through the Xbox 360, Android and iOS mobile devices as well as standard laptop or desktop computers.
Detailed on USA Today, Strickland indicated that more features will continue to be added to the service over time and the volume of connected devices that can access Redbox Instant will increase over the next year. Strickland did not indicate if Redbox Instant will offer original content to subscribers in the future. In order to access the streaming content on Redbox Instant, subscribers need to have a connection of 500 kbps or faster. In addition, people watching on a PC will need to install Microsoft’s Silverlight prior to watching streaming video.