Amazon and Redbox go after Netflix

Netflix subscribers reached 15 million by the end of June this year, an increase of 4.5 million from the same time last year. A large percentage of those subscribers, 61%, had tried streaming movies and TV shows to their computer, internet-connected Blu-ray player or TV. Recently, Netflix apps were added to Apple iPad and iPhone devices making viewing movies even more mobile. Now, other companies want a piece of the action.

Amazon already streams movies and TV shows via their Amazon Video On Demand product. Rumors of Amazon acquiring Netflix may be squashed as Amazon prepares to launch their own subscription-based model — one which may tie in with their Amazon Prime shipping program. And, it may help that Amazon owns the largest online movie database — IMDB — which could be used to push their streaming services. Last week, the online store even offered $.99 cent TV shows after Apple’s announcement of $.99 cent Fox and ABC shows through their new Apple TV box.

Redbox, however, has not done any video streaming yet. According to a recent LA Times article Redbox executives have been approaching studios with the intention of launching a streaming service. The internet service may be somehow be combined with the company’s 27,000 rental kiosks nationwide. Perhaps, the company would launch a subscription service similar to Netflix’s but more like Blockbuster which would allow you to pick up and drop off DVDs, rather than wait for them by mail.

One may also be on the watch for Google, who is rumored to be looking into competing with Netflix for a piece of the pie. While the giant certainly has its paws on everything internet, and YouTube (owned by Google) could easily make the jump into paid subscriptions for premium content, Google may face a challenge in getting viewers to start paying for a site that has long been free.

Everyone, including Apple, Best Buy, and Walmart are all doing their own streaming. But will streaming eventually take the place of discs? According to the LA Times Netflix’s Reed Hastings expects that over the next decade the company will phase out the DVD mail portion of the business, and just stream video.

But for now, streaming video does not take the place of Blu-ray Discs or DVDs as far as quality is concerned. A Blu-ray Disc is still far superior to the streaming HD quality Netflix offers. Upscaling DVD players also surpass standard-definition streaming quality in many cases (especially when outputing to a large TV).  And, packaged media also comes with bonus features, deleted scenes and other extras movie buffs live for.

Unless video compression improves tremendously during the next decade making it look as good as a 1080p Blu-ray Disc, phasing out the disc portion of the rental business would leave video and audiophiles with no option but to purchase. And, let’s not forget the next evolution of video which could be quad-HD, a data heavy format requiring even more internet bandwidth and the servers to push it.

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Jeff Chabot

Jeff Chabot

Jeff Chabot writes about technology, broadcasting, and digital entertainment. You can also find him on Gameverse, Gadget Review, and Google+.

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