Blockbuster Gets Into Set-Top Box Rentals

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Video rental giant BlockBuster might be best known for its seemingly ubiquitous brick-and-mortal retail rental outlets, but the company has decided to make a serious play in the digital video market, announcing a new MediaPoint on-demand set-top media player that will enable users to access BlockBuster on-demand content, including current and classic movies. The MediaPoint box is developed by 2Wire, comes with integrated Wi-Fi and Ethernet for connecting to a home broadband connection, and delivers DVD-quality video.

“The MediaPoint digital player, featuring Blockbuster OnDemand, is entertainment made easy,” said Blockbuster chairman and CEO Jim Keyes, in a statement. “We are bringing Blockbuster, and the thousands of movies in our digital library, straight to customers’ televisions.”

The MediaPoint players are available for sale now via Blockbuster’s Web site, and the company says the players will begin shipping in time for the holiday season. For a limited time will be available “for free” with the advance rental of 25 on-demand movies for $99. After the first 25 rentals, movies will be available for $1.99 apiece—no subscription required. Once a movie is rented, users will have 30 days to watch the title, but must finish watching it within 24 hours of beginning playback. Blockbuster hasn’t said what it plans to charge for the MediaPoint players as a regular price after after the initial promotional period.

With MediaPoint, Blockbuster is going into competition with the likes of the Xbox 360’s online video service, Apple’s iTunes (and AppleTV), Amazon Video On Demand, Vudu, and (of course) Netflix-enabled devices like the Roku set-top box. Blockbuster is hoping to differentiate itself by focussing on new releases rather than back catalog content, and the company will likely pursue alliances with consumer electronics manufacturers, game console makers, and even computer manufacturers to get its service integrated with their devices.

That said, the MediaPoint device is essentially a new way for BlockBuster customers to tap into the company’s MovieLink service, which it purchased in mid-2007. Beginning next month, visitors to the MovieLink site will be redirected to Blockbuster to learn about Blockbuster OnDemand.