Movie rentals are gaining popularity as people more frequently decide to drop premium movie channels or cut the cord on cable altogether. And it makes a lot of sense – you can get access to thousands of movie titles on demand or you have DVDs delivered directly to your door, all for the price of one month of a premium movie channel. Access to inexpensive movie rentals was one of the reasons I dropped my cable subscription.
So which options is best? The most prominent movie rental providers are Blockbuster and Netflix. They offer a wide selection of movies through both physical DVDs mailed to your door, and an online streaming option.
Blockbuster vs. Netflix – Comparing the Best Movie Services
Not too long ago, Netflix and Blockbuster were two very different companies, with Netflix exclusively offering DVDs by mail and Blockbuster exclusively offering DVDs in a rental environment. Technology and market conditions have changed both of these models and the two services became very similar to each other, with both offering a mail service and and online streaming service. Blockbuster still maintains some store front buildings, but the focus of their business now BlockBuster Total Access, which is the direct business model with DVDs and BluRays by mail and a pay as you go streaming option.
Netflix has had their own issues with the changes in technology, branding and pricing and recently split their DVD by mail and online streaming services into two different companies, each focusing on one business model. Amid strong customer backlash, Netflix quickly changed their business model back to the Netflix rand – though they continued to split the pricing model between the online streaming and DVD by mail.
The question now is: which service is better and which offers the best bang for the buck? Let’s take a detailed look at their plans and see which one is best for your movie watching needs.
Compare Netflix and Blockbuster
Let’s take a look at the three options:
|Comparing Netflix and Blockbuster|
|Movie rental company||Netflix Online||Netflix by mail
||Blockbuster Total Access*|
|Cost per month
||N/A||Add $2 per month||Included|
|On-line video streaming||Yes||No||$2.99-$3.99 each|
|Free Trial?||Free Trial||Free Trial||First 2 Months Half Price|
Compare Netflix and Blockbuster Online Streaming
Since Netflix split into two companies, there isn’t much of a comparison between Netflix and Blockbuster, since they primarily offer two different services. Netflix now only offers unlimited online video streaming for $7.99 per month. This is a great deal if you have a fast internet connection and a system capable of displaying high definition graphics. This could be through a PlayStation 3, Roku Box, Nintendo Wii, XBox 360, many types of Blu-Ray players, or a variety of other devices – which you may already own. There are currently over 20,000 movie titles and tens of thousands of TV shows to choose from for online viewing.
The biggest complaint I have heard about this service is the lack of top notch titles, as many new releases aren’t yet available to online customers. The most similar service to the Netflix streaming program is Hulu Plus, which is comparably priced.
Blockbuster on Demand. Blockbuster has an online streaming service, but the movies are a pay as you go service, with most movies in the $2.99-$3.99 range. You can get free movies through a trial service, or when you activate certain media players, but after that, you must pay for each title. Similar pay as you go movie rentals include Vudu and Amazon on Demand.
Compare Netflix and Blockbuster DVD by Mail
These two services are very similar – members select the movies they wish to rent and place them in a queue, then the company mails the movies to the member when they become available. Movies are mailed in a postage paid envelope and come with a postage paid return envelope for your convenience. All you need to do is watch the movie, put it in the postage paid envelope and drop it in the mail, and wait for your next movie to come. The standard features between Netflix and Blockbuster include:
- Free shipping. Both Netflix and Blockbuster use postage paid envelopes for sending movies to and from their customers.
- No late fees. This is one of the biggest marketing features employed by Netflix and Blockbuster.
- Blue-Ray. Both Netflix and Blockbuster offer the next generation DVDs. The only difference is that Blockbuster includes them in the base price, Netflix charges a $2 premium for Blu-Rays. Even with the $2 premium, Netflix’s price is at par or slightly cheaper.
- Video games. Until recently, this was a Blockbuster only advantage. Netflix will be adding video games to their service.
Differences between Netflix and Blockbuster: These two services aren’t identical though. There are some key differences:
- Blockbuster Offers In-store exchanges. Blockbuster offers their customers the opportunity to exchange videos and games at a brick and mortar location instead of sending the movies or games back through the postal service. This allows customers the opportunity to exchange movies more quickly than they otherwise would be able to. However, this service is limited to participating locations, and a cap of 5 exchanges per month.
- Blockbuster gets some new releases more quickly. Blockbuster has contracts with some movie distributors to receive movies more quickly than Netflix, or their other competitor, RedBox. However, not all new releases fall under this embargo.
- Blu-Rays. Netflix is cheaper if you don’t care about the Blu-Ray experience.
Which is better – Netflix or Blockbuster?
All three of these services offer customers good value for their money, depending on their needs. A lot of people are upset at the recent changes with Netflix, but even the combined price of the DVD by mail and online service can be cheaper than the Blockbuster by mail plus two or three movies on demand. It can also be cheaper than premium cable channels. The key here is to decide which plan works the nest for you and how you watch movies and other video content.
- Netflix is better if: You have a high speed internet connection and the ability to stream online videos – they have a larger selection of movies to choose from, and receive high ratings in most online reviews. Sign up for a free one month trial to Netflix.
- Netflix is better if: You prefer having movies and/or video games sent to your door. The price is cheaper than Blockbuster if you don’t use the Blu-Rays.
- Blockbuster is better if: You have a nearby Blockbuster store which participates in the rental exchange, and if having new releases a month earlier than Netflix is important to you.
My preference? Before Netflix split into two companies, they were the clear winner. Now it’s much closer, and with the rumors that Blockbuster will soon create a new online streaming option to rival Netflix, the choice is going to come down to who has the best content. Regardless of which one you choose, I believe all three options offer solid value, and a cheaper alternative to paying for cable or premium movie channels.
Free trial offers. Both Blockbuster and Netflix offer free or reduced cost trials, so you can always try it free to determine which company and plan best meets your needs. Netflix offers a free month trial, and BlockBuster offers two months for the price of one.
Live in Canada? Check out this Canadian online DVD rental comparison.
Which service do you prefer? I’d love to hear your opinions on these services.