Friday, September 24, 2010

Blockbuster, RIP

Back during the Madness, a neighbor happened to mention a new service that would let you rent DVDs online.  This was around the same time as eToys and WebVan, back when one could look at a preposterous business plan and think "Well, maybe I'm missing something."  Nonetheless it seemed a bit unlikely that people would want to wait for DVDs to arrive in the mail when they could just hop over to the local Blockbuster.  I didn't give the idea much of a chance.

About a decade later, Netflix is still going strong and Blockbuster has just filed for bankruptcy, sending its stock from about $0.06 to around $0.04.  That's a typical "oh look, you can too fall through the floor" dot-bomb performance and, sadly, not too much of a surprise.  I literally don't remember the last time I set foot in a Blockbuster or heard someone say "Oh, I'll rent it at Blockbuster".  For that matter, I'm still not sure when I last bought a DVD.  The only reason even to rent a DVD is that it's not available online cheaply enough.  My Netflix subscription, however, is still going, albeit at the minimum rate [and it's still alive and well ... the new "smart TV" in the bedroom has Netflix built in with a button for it on the remote control, and Netflix seems to be doing pretty well following the HBO playbook in moving from supplying movies to producing original content --D.H. Dec 2015].

The winner here, of course, is online video (provided you include video on demand).  The loser is physical video (tape and DVD, but with movie theaters in a separate category).  Netflix would likely be in the same boat as Blockbuster had it stuck to mailing DVDs and conversely Blockbuster might have survived had Netflix not beat it to the punch online.

So there you have it: Convergence and the web winning decisively over the old bricks-and-mortar model.  It really did happen.  Just years later and only in an industry that's essentially been selling bits all along.

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