netflix vs. blockbuster total access

Blockbuster Total Access has had a recent boost after Netflix made a drastic change to their DVD and online streaming plans, and angered a lot of customers. They’ve tried to entice customers even more with some great sign up offers.

Back when Blockbuster first rolled out their Total Access DVD rental service, I did an initial review of it. After subscribing to and trying out both services, its time to compare and Netflix and Blockbuster and see which one is better…

Netflix v. BlockbusterI signed up for both Netflix and Blockbuster Total Access at the same time. I got 3 DVD’s from each service on the following Wednesday. The turnaround on both services was 2 days – if I dropped the movie in my mailbox on Monday, I’d have a new one by Wednesday. Essentially Both Netflix and Blockbuster Total Access had the same turnaround times for my area. (Your mileage will vary).

After having both services for a few months I can say that both of them are very similar. So what are the differences?

Netflix v. Blockbuster: Website Usability

Blockbuster Drag n Drop Both websites have similar functionality. They both have ratings (ajaxy), recommendation based on your previous movies, popular lists, etc. Both are fairly easy to navigate.

Netflix, however, gives you critic reviews as well as user reviews and has a more Amazon-like system for user feedback (which I like better). They also seem to have a larger database of feedback.

Blockbuster added a drag and drop function, which does make it easier to add movies to your queue as you surf the site.

Overall though, both websites are pretty good.

Blockbuster Total Access

Blockbuster Home Page The online movie rental space was shaken up when Blockbuster announced their Total Access program. Blockbuster followed up with a lot of marketing online, on television (with Alex Baldwin’s voice over nonetheless), and via mail. Netflix responded with their own tv ads some time after. Blockbuster was smart to leverage all their physical locations into a competitive advantage Netflix doesn’t have.

Similar to their old “no late fees” promotion, Blockbuster’s Total Access actually sounds better than what it REALLY is. You still need to have a separate membership to your local store, and the movie you bring into the store is treated just like a free movie rental coupon. The big disadvantage is that you can’t return the movie that you rented in store by mail. I hate returning movies and would love to be able to mix and match the online and offline services. Also, movies rented in-store are not removed from your online queue. However, Blockbuster does give you 1 coupon per month for an online movie OR game rental in addition to what you already get – so that’s a bonus.

Blockbuster also offers On Demand streaming video where you can instantly watch digital movies on your TV, Blu-ray player, DVR, cell phone, PC, or portable device, with no monthly fees.

Netflix

Apple, Amazon, Joost, Hulu, and others are players in the online movie business, and Netflix is trying to establish themselves as the front runner.  The earlier they get into that market, the better off they will be when it matures, and the more infrastructure they will have in place. I should also mention that Walmart launched a movie download service.  They have impressive deals with major movie studios, but Walmart doesn’t have a track record of success in these types of online ventures, so I don’t hold out much hope (plus I don’t like Wal-mart).  *Update – Walmart is still competing in the online instant video world with VUDU.

Netflix watch now screenshotThe dream of tv and movies anytime via broadband is becoming reality.  Although there are still hardware limitations, movie studio concerns, and barriers in consumer demand/perception.  There are a number of options to buy movies online but usually they’re more expensive than the DVD’s and are laced with DRM, which makes them a bad option. Netflix is different in that you can stream the films instead of buying them.

Another concern is that few people currently have their computer monitors in their living rooms or have an entertainment system that’s connected via broadband, which limits the appeal of the streaming movie advantage.  (2011 Update – That is not really the case now.)

Netflix v. Blockbuster: My Conclusion

Personally I haven’t yet decided whether I should keep Netflix or Blockbuster Total Access (but I will soon). It mostly comes down to what’s more useful to you? Being able to rent at local video store (with the caveats mentioned above) or being able to watch streaming movies on your computer instantly.

I imagine students in dorm rooms are more likely to favor Netflix and families living near a store are more likely to favor Blockbuster. Here’s a quick comparison:

Netflix

  • For $7.99 a month, subscribers get unlimited movies & TV episodes instantly over the Internet to your TV or computer.
  • For an additional $7.99 a month you can add DVD rentals – one DVD out at a time (you can’t get the DVD rental by itself without the streaming subscription anymore)
  • More independant films
  • More comprehensive reviews/feedback
  • Offers a 30-day Free Trial.

Blockbuster

  • 1 disc at a time- $9.99 a month, 2 discs – $14.99, 3 discs – $19.99
  • Can use movies rented online as free coupons in-store
  • One free rental per month (which can be a game)
  • Nice drag and drop interface

Both services have trial offers. At the end of the day, I’d probably recommend Netflix over Blockbuster, (or you could even try them both and see which one gives you faster service).  *Update as of November 2011 — with the changes, price hikes, and uncertainty from Netflix as of lately, I might have to jump ship for Blockbuster.