Reel Reviews

It's War! Warner Bros. Increasing Netflix, Redbox and Blockbuster Rental Delay to 56 Days

Warner Home Video

Movie lovers who prefer satisfying a cinematic sweet tooth by patronizing Netflix's DVD-by-mail service or any of the numerous Redbox or Blockbuster DVD rental kiosks that dot nearly every corner of every street in America, are well aware by now of the 28-day new release rental delay window instituted back in 2010 that separates a movie's release for purchase on DVD and the day you can rent it from your favorite rental outlet. As aggravating as it once was, the delay has reluctantly become just another minor annoyance in our valiant quest to line the pockets of studio execs with our hard earned money. Now comes word from AllTHingsD that Warner Bros. has doubled that rental embargo to 56 days. WTF?

Claiming the move is aimed at juicing slogging DVD and online viewing purchases, Warner is expected to formally make the announcement at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The studio has talked openly in the past about increasing the rental window, so the move doesn't come as a total surprise, but what continues to puzzle is the cluelessness with which these studios continue to operate. It took them years to finally realize and address the notion that people like watching movies on a multitude of devices (the jury is still out on the Ultraviolet consortium), now the industry is beginning to act on the perception that making consumers wait longer to spend money will somehow encourage them to spend more later. Baffling.

Them are Fightin' Words!

One of the most discouraging sound bites in the battle between the studios and home video rental outfits is from an industry analyst who contends "a 28-day window is simply not long enough to shift consumers fast enough to higher-margin video-on-demand rentals and purchases." There you have it. The studios are in a war with consumers to see how long we'll wait before saying, "fuck it" and doling out more money to just buy the damn thing. 28 Days apparently wasn't long enough, what's your magic number?

Though the recent embargo increase to 56 days is being reported to only involve Warner Bros., as was the case in the previous embargo, don't be surprised to see more studios let Warner take the first PR hit before eventually gathering in lock step behind a longer delay. Warner, Universal, and Twentieth Century Fox – though three of the largest - are the only studios to practice the 28-day delay of renting new releases.

There's a Way Around This

In exchange for kowtowing to the embargo back in 2010, Netflix was able to finagle better deals on content for its online streaming business, but apparently no such deal is in place this time around. Here's to hoping Netflix, Redbox, and Blockbuster shun the embargo and opt to more heavily exercise the first-sale doctrine that allows them to stock inventory by purchasing discs directly from retailers. That has become an increasingly difficult task however, as the studios have deals in place with many big box retailers to disallow purchases of more than five discs at a time.

And HBO Joins the Stupid Wars

Netflix was unfortunately hit with some more bad news when HBO announced yesterday that it would discontinue the sale of DVDs to Netflix altogether. Though the two moves are said to be unrelated, it's worth noting that HBO is owned by Time Warner.

Though we here at Reel Reviews don't condone the pirating of movies, these continued bone-headed moves by the industry to prevent convenient, non-complicated, and value-based acquisition of good content make us begin to understand why some do. How about a move to just delay or ban the rental of DVDs, blu-rays, and subscription-based plans forever? Surely that will make us fork over twenty bucks to pick up a copy Something Borrowed or The Zookeeper on DVD.

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