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Blockbuster goes on-demand with new set-top box

The video rental company will use 2Wire's MediaPoint hardware to go head-to-head with Netflix, Apple TV, Vudu, and others.


When 2Wire introduced its MediaPoint set-top box just two weeks ago, we told you that "it'll be a matter of weeks--if not days--before you see a yet-to-be-named service provider offering its own version of the MediaPoint, possibly at a sub-$100 price point." The curtain has been pulled back, and that initial provider turns out to be Blockbuster Video. For a limited time, the once-dominant movie rental chain is offering its version of the MediaPoint box for just $99, which includes a credit for 25 movies--effectively making it free.

The MediaPoint will be Blockbuster's first set-top box, delivering on-demand content to a user's TV on an a la carte basis. Movies will start at $1.99 each (once the credit is exhausted), and Blockbuster is promising "thousands of titles from the latest movie releases to classic favorites."

2Wire MediaPoint

The hardware itself is very similar to the Netflix Player by Roku (also $99). It streams movies from the Web via 802.11g Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet home network connections. While the box "supports HD video," Blockbuster is pledging a "DVD quality" experience on any broadband connection, and saying that movies can be watched instantly or viewed later. (We think that means the initial offering will be standard-def, with HD offerings possibly coming at some point in the future.)

The box will be available for order at Blockbuster's Web site and should be shipping "in time for the holiday season."

The Blockbuster MediaPoint box will be going head-to-head versus Netflix subscription-based on-demand offerings (which are available on the Xbox 360, Samsung BD-P2500 and BD-P2550, LG BD300, and the aforementioned Roku box), the Apple TV ($230), PlayStation 3 ($400), and Vudu ($300)--just to name the major players. The hardware also expands on the PC-only MovieLink Internet viewing service, which Blockbuster purchased in August 2007. (Not coincidentally, MovieLink's site is stating that it will no longer be available as of December 15, effectively passing the baton to the new MediaPoint option.)


We're hoping to get a sample of the MediaPoint/Blockbuster box in the next few weeks. In the meantime, what do you think? Is the Blockbuster box a compelling option for home movie viewing? Or do you prefer the Netflix all-you-can-eat subscription approach?