Comcast Enters the DVD-by-Mail Game
Zatz Not Funny posted details about the "DVDsByMail" promotion on Sunday. Comcast is initially marketing it under the beta label.
A Comcast official confirmed the relationship Monday, noting that MSO customers across the country are now free to sign up for several of Blockbuster's by-mail DVD rental packages through the partnership. Comcast customers who subscribe to two or three of the MSO's service packages are in line to get a $1 discount for Blockbuster's unlimited 1-disc monthly rental tier, and a $3 discount for monthly tiers that rent out two or three DVDs or Blu-ray discs at a time. For now, the partnership doesn't include Blockbuster's "Total Access" tier, which also factors in game rentals, but the companies are talking about adding that in, too.
UPDATE: Comcast confirmed that customers who go for the DVDsByMail service are free to add games to their rental queues under the packages that are currently offered through the partnership. However, Comcast has yet to offer Total Access, a Blockbuster tier that emphasizes movie and gaming rentals by mail and allows subscribers up to five in-store exchanges during a given month.
As another component of the relationship, Blockbuster will be promoting Comcast services at stores located within the MSO's service footprint. In the early going, Comcast and Blockbuster are testing those in-store promotions in Portland, Ore., but expect to extend that to other MSO markets. Comcast estimates that 70 percent of its customers live within 10 minutes of a Blockbuster store.
At this point, Blockbuster's own broadband video service isn't included in the Comcast offering, but the deal comes into play as Comcast closes in on the 25,000 title mark for VoD (with the capacity to offer much more) via its evolving video-optimized content distribution network (CDN) and still PC-centric TV Everywhere service. With Blockbuster on board, the MSO now looks as if it's also trying to pull a Netflix by combining its streaming content with access to a catalogue of about 100,000 physical DVD titles. (See Comcast's 'Project Infinity' Takes Flight and Cable Thinking Big With Video-Focused CDNs .)
This sort of deal may also get Comcast closer to an electronic sell-through model through which subs could purchase DVDs and get access to those titles via VoD, if customers are willing to pay a premium for that privilege.
However, of the two partners, only Comcast is currently a member of UltraViolet, the new brand for the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a consortium that's developing a "digital rights locker" that will allow consumers to buy DVDs at retail and still access those titles on portable media players and cable VoD platforms. Others that are noticeably absent from the UltraViolet ranks include Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS). (See Consortium Labels Its TV Everywhere Locker.)
The Comcast deal marks the latest cable play for Blockbuster.
Last fall, the struggling video rental firm struck deals with Suddenlink Communications and Mediacom Communications Corp. . Under phase one of those deals, the MSOs were to start rebranding their VoD services under the Blockbuster brand and promote its services in local Blockbuster stores. Those deals also pave the path for Suddenlink and Mediacom to offer customers access to Blockbuster's by-mail DVD and Blu-ray rental service. (See Blockbuster Busts Out Cable Deals .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable