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Amazon to Enter the Online DVD Rental Business 243

Posted by samzenpus
from the rental-race dept.
ChrisF79 writes "Wired News is reporting that Amazon.com is hiring programmers to work with online dvd rentals. From the article: "Advertising for positions based at the company's Seattle headquarters, the listings seek engineers to help in 'building systems and algorithms that must move inventory between our fulfillment centers and our customers in a way that gives customers exactly what they want, when they want it.' The postings indicate they are specifically for an online DVD rental service." Netflix seems to have a stronghold on the market so despite numerous advantages for Amazon, especially economies of scale, can Amazon enter the market and surpass Netflix?"
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Amazon to Enter the Online DVD Rental Business

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  • Advantage: Amazon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jmp_nyc (895404) * on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:56AM (#13278643)
    Amazon has the clear advantage here. They already operate distribution centers in several locations around the US, have experience in inventory management and quick shipping, and can even rent videos at a slight loss for a while, using it to drive business to the rest of their operations.

    Of course, if all that fails, they can follow their usual MO and file a patent for the idea of unlimited online rentals for a monthly fee and drive Netflix out of business that way.
    -JMP

    • Amazon has the clear advantage here. They already operate distribution centers in several locations around the US, have experience in inventory management and quick shipping, and can even rent videos at a slight loss for a while, using it to drive business to the rest of their operations.

      Well, it will be interresting to see how they actually think to manage all those rentals. If you see what they charge for shipping packages right now, and assume it cannot really get much lower, the actual delivery of a

      • It's a different package than they typically deliver right now; a book or CD comes in a cardboard box, often with packing bubbles and such.

        If they follow the Netflix model, the DVD will be shipped in an envelope such that the whole package weighs less than an ounce - disc only, no case. It's their product, so they can risk them getting broken at virtually no cost (distributors probably replace them for free). First-class, non-bulk postage using USPS for a square envelope 1oz is around 50c. You can imagi
      • Ah, but it can get lower. If you are sending out large amounts of mail, i.e. bulk mail, you can get much cheaper rates through the USPS. Plus, and I'm not sure if you're an online DVD renter, they are just sending a little flat envelope.

        I'm all for competition, but I think Amazon will have to have a special gimmick of some sort to enter into the US market with any success.

        And for all Netflix users out there, my Queue Manager program is now officially free, and officially version 1. Now that it's out o
        • And for all Netflix users out there, my Queue Manager program is now officially free, and officially version 1. Now that it's out of beta, come give it a spin!


          Too bad it's for windows. How about a mac/linux port?

          -- Gary F.
        • Looks really nice! I second the above post: I only use Mac and Linux in my home. This would make my list for sure if it ran on those platforms! Any chance for a port?
          • Re:Advantage: Amazon (Score:3, Informative)

            by javaxman (705658)
            I haven't tried it, but a quick search reveals Netflix Freak [thelittleappfactory.com] which is your OS X version of the same app... of course, it's not free, just free-to-try, whatever that means... frankly, I don't find the web form that hard to use, but I also pretty well let my wife manage the thing. Which is OK, usually, because when she gets crap I don't want to watch, it means more time to play Vice City...

            There's also this spiffy-looking Dashflix [apple.com] dashboard thingy, which is only a viewer not an editor, but still neat... and f

    • Re:Advantage: Amazon (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cerdic (904049)
      WalMart also had those advantages over Netflix, but look at what happened. They stopped taking new subscriptions (because they intend to stop the service) not too long ago.
    • Re:Advantage: Amazon (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bedroll (806612) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:12AM (#13278816) Journal
      Netflix needs better competition anyway. Blockbuster competes on price and that they give in-store rentals, but they don't compete on service.

      A co-worker recently did a trial comparison of the two services. He found that Netflix sent, received, and processed faster. Also, he found the entire sign up process easier with Netflix (mostly due to an error Blockbuster's site experienced with his sign up, which could be a one time issue). Their website is better designed. Basically, they're just a better online service than Blockbuster has been.

      Amazon has proven to be a good online service. My personal experience shows that there's rarely ever need to use anything but super-saver shipping because most things get to me just that quick. Their website works: I can find stuff, I can buy stuff.

      If anyone can compete with Netflix it's them, hopefully this will either force Netflix to continue to improve or lower their prices. That means that I win. If nothing else, they probably won't raise prices or worsen service, so I at least won't lose.

      • by TopShelf (92521) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:04PM (#13279861) Homepage Journal
        My wife and I have recently hit on a great, free source of DVD's - the Library. For those who haven't been there in a while, check out your local branch and you might be surprised at what's available. We just picked up Donnie Darko, Kinsey, and Lost in Translation the other day. Since we take the kids there once a week to pick up kid's movies and books, we grab a couple for ourselves and when you're on a tight budget, free entertainment is a major bonus...
      • Your co-worker needed to use Netflix for longer than the trial period to get a true feel for their speed. They throttle heavy users. I tend to return discs the day after I get them, and Netflix waits an extra day to ship me my next one.
        • I, and a few friends, have been using Netflix for a couple years now. I've heard of the throttling but never experienced it. I've gone through times when I watched a movie the night I got it every time, and times when I've gone a couple monthes without bothering to watch any movies. I can't say that I ever noticed a big difference.

          However, even if Netflix waits a day to process the movies that's still a four day turn around. During his trial at Blockbuster's service he noticed no less than a five day turn

      • Blockbuster competes on price

        Not anymore. Blockbuster is raising their fee [reuters.com] to $17.99 as of August 19. Unless Netflix is raising their rates and I haven't heard about it, they are now the same price.

    • by joebok (457904)
      I don't know if they have a "clear advantage" - NetFlix has a lot of name recognition and customer loyalty. My experience has been great, as have the experiences of everyone I know - very easy to use and excellent customer service. "NetFlix" is practically synonomous with "on-line DVD rental".

      A contender has a lot to accomplish to get to that level I think.
      • "I don't know if they have a "clear advantage" - NetFlix has a lot of name recognition and customer loyalty. My experience has been great, as have the experiences of everyone I know - very easy to use and excellent customer service. "NetFlix" is practically synonomous with "on-line DVD rental"."

        I agree...I love Netflix. I do wonder, however, if Amazon would get a little 'leg ahead' if they offered Adult titles...something that Netflix, for some reason, does not do. Maybe have it on a separate, higher pric

        • There are a few services that do this (DVD Avenue [dvdavenue.com] is one).

          NetFlix used to do adult titles, but stopped when they got support from Best Buy. I presume it was a term of the arrangement.
    • They already operate distribution centers in several locations around the US

      That is true. And that's how Netflix started.

      But then they realized that for timley delivery of movies, you really need hundreds of distribution centers, not several. Hundreds may be exaggerating a little bit, but Netflix definatley has more than several.

      The ones who can get you the widest selection fastest wins. The only thing Amazon might offer in competition over Walmart (which did not fare well against Netflix) is perhaps a b
      • But then they realized that for timley delivery of movies, you really need hundreds of distribution centers, not several. Hundreds may be exaggerating a little bit, but Netflix definatley has more than several.

        In fact, ideally you need enough distribution centers to cover the entire country with one-day service. Netflix doesn't have that - you get to a certain point and you're spending a huge amount of money for a few people in rural areas - but they have about 90% coverage at this point.

        Then you have to c
      • Price matters too, of course. I watch a handful of movies a month, and for me, Blockbuster.com is a better deal. It's $15 a month (cheaper than NetFlix), and I get 2 free in-store rental coupons for those spur-of-the-moment times. I'm content enough with 3 at a time that I find I don't really care about the extra couple days it takes to get a new one. I just keep 2 in transit and watch the third.
    • You could argue they had the same advantage over eBay. I'm surprised however how few people even realise that Amazon operates an auction service, and there seem to be many amongst my friends unaware of their (separate) Amazon Marketplace service that also, in practice, ends up competing with eBay.

      In practice, people generally think "Amazon = books", and "eBay = secondhand goods". Right now, people think "Netflix = online DVD rentals". I don't doubt Amazon can probably make their service profitable, but Ne

    • From what I can tell, Netflix is able to ship and receive quickly not necessarily because of local warehouses, but because they have distributed nodes, at least superficially in the form of P.O. Boxes, which makes it possible to deliver movies in a single day at what I can only assume is a low price.

      Amazon may or may not have the ability to get things to you in a day at a reasonable cost. That's not to say that they can't develop this ability. However, it seems like they'd have to develop a close relat
  • by phpm0nkey (768038) * on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:57AM (#13278655) Homepage
    I was a NetFlix subscriber for about two years, because they were the best of what was around. Recently, I switched to Blockbuster's in-store unlimited rentals, because it could give me something that NetFlix couldn't: instant gratification.

    I am fickle. With NetFlix, I too frequently found a DVD in my mailbox that I felt like watching 3 days ago. Being able to pick out a movie and be watching it 20 minutes later really makes a world of difference.

    Perhaps NetFlix will go one better. With movie downloads just around the bend [slashdot.org], it appears that they're taking innovation and competition in their industry very seriously. Amazon may have the inventory and distribution architecture to easily catapult themselves into the market, but if they don't have anything more interesting than DVDs-by-mail on the horizon, they may quickly find themselves left behind.
    • by dazzla_2000 (204679) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:01AM (#13278696) Homepage
      Their other advantage is they've already done this in the UK.
    • by Ingolfke (515826) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:01AM (#13278703) Journal
      I was a Blockbuster subscriber... but after a year (and the dreck that's been coming out of Hollywood) I ran out of movies to watch. I wish they'd stock more TV shows (new and old).

      If Blockbuster could work out a deal w/ the movie industry to burn the DVDs onsite so they could have all the benefits of an unlimited DVD inventory and all the convenience of 20 minute turn around times, I think they'd really hurt NetFlix & Amazon's business.
      • Blockbuster online rental has TV shows and that is all I rent. I watched 3 years worth of 24 in month or two. I dont like 2 hour movies anymore. I like the long series where there is more character building and not a big rush to a dramatic kaboom.
      • If you're on the West Coast check out Greencine [greencine.com]. They focus more on Indy films, cult and docs and since they have a much smaller customer base you can actually email them and request a movie and they go out and try to find it for you.

        They're based in San Francisco though so if you live a few states away it may not be worth the extra shipping time.

    • The only issue I take to that is this: I have to haul my ass all the way to blockbuster to get the video. I live in an oldish city, and the nearest blockbuster is hard to get to. it is usually crowded on that block, and it forces me to parallel park. I would rather just get "back into the mood" to watch a movie that I don't have to drive to get.
      • We got my Dad a Netflix subscription a couple of years ago and he still has it.

        We got a Blockbuster Online subscription and it's fantastic. It's cheaper than Netflix and has two "free" in-store rentals each month. So you get the delivery stuff but you can also get your instant gratification if you need something on short notice.

        Other than their site needing a serious reworking (no middle clicking to open new tabs?!) it's an excellent service.
    • besides some thing like this [manuelsweb.com] makes me very doubtful about joining netflix.
      • by rale, the (659351) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:28AM (#13278977)
        I think the throttling thing is a bit of an exageration. I just pulled up my 3 month history on netflix's site, and I rented 20, 15, and 17 dvds for a total of 52 over 90 days. Before that I was renting roughly the same amount aswell. I have the 3 at a time plan, which is $18 a month. That means I'm paying $54 for 3 months, which works out to $1.04 per rental, whereas that site says they'll throttle you if you get under $2/per. It is possible that the occasional extra day waits are some sort of throttling measure, but it doesnt seem to me that they're very aggressive, if so. Well, atleast I think I'm getting a pretty good deal at 1.04/each.
        • > that site says they'll throttle you if you get under $2/per.

          Wow. This is the first time I've heard of a customer disincentive program.

          So, do they use piano wire, or what?
        • I know for a fact I've been throttled. The first couple of months they were great... then suddenly my 3-day turnaround time went to 7-days with no explanation... somehow everything I sent in the mail was taking longer to get there and when they did get the disks they took longer to process and get here. It would have pissed me off a lot less if they didn't flat out lie to me about it being the Post Office's fault and garbage like that. There are whole websites [manuelsweb.com] devoted to this subject. Unlimited rentals
    • This is true, but its hard to find an older movie at blockbuster. My experience is that if an older movie is lost or damaged at blockbuster, they dont reorder it and I can't rent it again. The online renters have thousands more movies in stock, and also tv shows and things like that.

      With online retailers, I have found netflix to have much faster turn around times than blockbuster online. Netflix also seems to have many more copies of movies and a better selection. Just my observations.
    • I tend to agree. However, I tend not to support large, aggressive, "family" based, international media conglomerates. The difference for me isn't worth becoming a corporate whore.
    • mod parent down.

      The biggest problem with blockbuster stores is their incredible lack of selection, and the movies they DO have tend to be checked out, especially on weekends when most people want to watch movies...
  • I think Amazon's advantage is that because of the sheer volume of shipping they currently do they can probably get better prices on video shipping.

    However, personally, I really never use Amazon for anything more than books. Perhaps it has caught on in other markets, but I really see Amazon as a book place. I think my first instinct would still be to go to Netflix if I wanted to rent movies.
    • by garcia (6573) * on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:16AM (#13278861)
      However, personally, I really never use Amazon for anything more than books.

      Why? In addition to books (used and new) I have bought multiple things there including two GPS units and a mobile phone.

      The latest GPS unit (GPSMap 76CS) was on sale, no rebates necessary, and priced $50 less than its lower end unit (76C). Six months later, the price I got (with no mail-in-rebates) is still less than you can find 99% of the time.

      The mobile phone (T-mobile Sidekick 1) came with instant and mail-in-rebates that totalled enough to make the phone $0 with on year of service.

      Why would you only go to Amazon for books when there are so many bargains on there that I seem to only be able to find there?

      I'm not an amazon.com rep, investor, or otherwise, just a happy customer.
    • I joined Amazon Prime - the all-you-can-eat shipping program, and it significantly changed my shopping habits - I'm buying more stuff, but it's relevant to my preferences. And I always look on Amazon first. Two-day shipping is great too.

      On the Netflix competition front, it is interesting that Netflix has not yet, AFAIK, used it's patent on the DVD delivery/rental service that it took out a long time back.

      Culturally, Amazon will be a better fit, competitively, than Wal-mart and Blockbuster, because it h
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:58AM (#13278668)
    People who viewed "Anal Invaders 4" also enjoyed...
  • ...for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for Blockbuster!!!
  • Operation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by superpulpsicle (533373) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:59AM (#13278681)
    When netflix lowered their price in competition with blockbuster, netflix claimed they were in jeopardy of making pennies for profit. The opposite happened and their stock prices went higher.

    I am really confused as to whether everybody is still overcharging. Considering everyone has an endless queue list that seem to be sending things out of order again and again. There is still a real supply problem.


    • Just cause thier stock value went up doesn't mean they're making profit.

      Remember the days of sock puppets and on-line grocery shopping?

    • Re:Operation (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mad_Rain (674268)
      I am really confused as to whether everybody is still overcharging. Considering everyone has an endless queue list that seem to be sending things out of order again and again. There is still a real supply problem.

      I should probably not give away a secret this good, especially on slashdot, but I've been renting newly released DVD movies from my local library for $1.50. [ca.gov] Same length of time from the video store (About 3 days) and significantly cheaper than any of the local area chain video stores. Documentari
  • Already in the UK (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Amazon already have a DVD rental system in the UK. I have never tried it as I use LoveFilm, but I hear its ok.

    • Re:Already in the UK (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jantheman (113125)
      I use it.

      There are no complaints.

      fyi:

      Turn arond time typically 3 days (in the postbox by 12pm -> email telling you they've got it & what you're getting next -> receipt).

      Only one unreadable DVD out of ~ 20 so far. Using their online 'damage reported' method, they sent a replacement before I returned the bad one.

    • Re:Already in the UK (Score:2, Informative)

      by TBR (676297)
      I use it and it works very well, had Zero problems with the system at all.
  • News? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:03AM (#13278714) Homepage
    They have already entered the DVD rental market: Amazon.de Launches DVD Rental Service For Customers in Germany [corporate-ir.net], Amazon.co.uk Launches New DVD Rental Service [corporate-ir.net]
    • Re:News? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by grahamm (8844)
      Surely they already have the software for doing it. So why do they need to hire more programmers for it?
      • Re:News? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pdbaby (609052)
        Because the US is much larger than the UK or Germany, I'm guessing. That means stock's moving greater distances which means that moving it's more expensive which means you need to optimise movement and placement up the wazoo
  • Amazon already does this in the UK [amazon.co.uk]. Since learning about this from my friends over there, I figured it was just a matter of time before they brought the program over here.
  • FWIW, I recently read that Netflix started in 1998, Amazon 1994.
  • I'll stick with netflix unless they go patent crazy.
    • If I recall correctly, they do have a patent that pretty much covers renting DVDs via the internet. Expect to see them suing Amazon soon. Then again, Amazon could probably hit back with some patents of their own, so maybe they won't sue. Still, Netflix is as patent crazy as most other businesses now.
  • by Blindman (36862) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:09AM (#13278792) Journal
    The way that Amazon could really gain an advantage is if they could find a way to combine buying other items with DVD rental. If I could buy a book, and get it shipped free with my incoming DVD that would be something. Otherwise, I don't see how they can compete except on price or name regonition.
  • Too Late? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by canolecaptain (410657) * on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:11AM (#13278804)
    With the deployment of the XBox 360 in mass quantities in '06, content producers will have the ability to content lock their movies. Microsoft will finally be able to promise that security to media execs, which will then loosen them up enough to allow the streaming to occur. When that desire is coupled with the increased availability of broadband, the on-demand downloading will finally go mainstream with Microsoft attempting to lead the way. Others in this market will be Apple with iVideo, potentially Sony on the PS3, and potentially juggernaut Google to the PC.
    Unless Amazon can couple the download with the the DVD rental (both will be necessary), they will be too late to be of consequence. My guess is that Netflix, Intelliflix, and Blockbuster will all begin on demand downloads by the end of next year.
    • Re:Too Late? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hackstraw (262471) *
      With the deployment of the XBox 360 in mass quantities in '06, content producers will have the ability to content lock their movies. Microsoft will finally be able to promise that security to media execs...

      Let's think. Target age of an XBox is between teenager to twenty something geek male. Basically, a high percentage of the people that comment on posts like:

      http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/08/03/ 148257&from=rss [slashdot.org]

      These are the same people that are already more likely to be computer literat
    • With the deployment of the XBox 360 in mass quantities in '06, content producers will have the ability to content lock their movies.

      Yes, of course. The deployment of tens of thousands of Xbox360en are going to make the market that serves millions of DVD player owners disappear.

  • of course it depends on your taste in films, the rocky box set is £25 in one store near where i work. bought Solaris last week for £4 from Virgin Megastore. Having about 6 stores within half a mile of where i work all fighting to get rid of lots of stock at cheap prices is great. And then there's the (probably legally dubious) ex rentals from my local blockbuster and choice videos offering newish films at low low prices. in this instance i tend to buy really obscure/foreign films that are highly
  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:13AM (#13278823) Homepage Journal
    ...at least for Comcast.

    When I'm not blowing $18-21 at a time to rent a whole season of a tv show at the local video store(yes, I know I should go netflix), I give Comcast VOD a try.

    So let's go watch Constantine.. Wait, it's not listed. Okay, let's go watch Hellboy..wait. No, wait, the only have bottom-of-the box office barrel movies available.

    Comcast's offerings of VOD is incredibly pathetic for being such a mega-corp. You would think DVD distributors would lend them a few episodes of a TV show they just released for free viewing. Then,if you like the show so much you could buy it. Free advertising. Give 'em a taste.

    Heck, let me pay a small fee to VOD the HBO/Showtime premium tv shows, without having to subscribe to said premiums.

    So far, VOD to me is a dud.
    • So let's go watch Constantine.. Wait, it's not listed. Okay, let's go watch Hellboy..wait. No, wait, the only have bottom-of-the box office barrel movies available.

      You mean like Constantine [boxofficemojo.com] and Hellboy [boxofficemojo.com]?
    • Yes, I will have to agree that OnDemand has been mismanaged across the board from its inception.

      Virtually everything is Pan And Scan, only a handful of programs are Widescreen, and the decision about what gets the P&S or Wide treatment is seemingly random. Small indie films which will probably be viewed by Widescreen devotees are P&S, while crap romantic comedies are presented in your choice of P&S or Wide. Any time older films are added to the pay-per-view part and put on sale for a reduced
    • What is annoying to me about Comcast On Demand is their guitar lessons. They've had the same lessons on for 4 months, with a listed expiration date of August 6, 2005. So I check yesterday, expecting to be able to learn a bunch of new songs. Instead, it's the exact same songs, only with an expiration date of January 2006.

      And HBO On Demand is annoying also. They refuse to even state a release date of the DVD of the Third Season of The Wire. But they only show 5 episodes at a time on OD. And they're still stuc

  • Books anyone? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rdurell (827253)
    I could see Amazon doing with books what Netflix does with DVDs. It is essentially the same thing with the same issues.
    • reliability (Score:2, Interesting)

      by domipheus (751857)
      A problem I see with that is postage, books are considerably larger and heavier == expensive.

      Also, books get damaged far quicker than dvd's. I dont think it is a real option for them.
  • I like Amazon in general, but I'm going to stick with Netflix for now. I've been a member since they started and I've seen the service continue to improve over that time. I like them because for me it is a real hassle to go to BlockBuster and Netflix has more movies that cater to my outside of the mainstream tastes, like foriegn films and anime. If Netflix can continue to appeal to niche markets as well as the mainstream, then they have a shot.
  • by Evil W1zard (832703) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:21AM (#13278903) Journal
    Hopefully Amazon will offer a competitive price and that will hopefully lead to lower prices on Netflix...

    If Amazon does a good job here I would probably switch over because I have noticed that everytime I start returning a lot of movies back to Netflix there is a mysterious slow down in delivery of new movies on their part. They blame it on the Post Office but there distro facility is right down the road and checking with the Post Office there really is no delay. It looks to me like Netflix either doesn't process returned movies quick enough or delays them so you get less movies per month if you happen to be watching/returning them too fast. Anyone else have that issue?
  • I doubt amazon will fare any better. 
  • ...Doesn't mean that Amazon can't succeed. Netflix did good and Blockbuster was scared so they jumped in. As a few readers pointed out however, they like their instant gratification and to be able to walk into the store and get what they want when they want it. Consider Blockbuster a bricks and mortar store that happens to have an online component.

    The real point here however is that just because Netflix and Blockbuster online exist doesn't mean Amazon can't come along and emerge as the winner. There were
  • by rwven (663186)
    I thought amazon bought out netflix.... or was that another company? Wasn't there a story about the sale a little hwile back on /.?
  • Bizarre. I did a double take.

    Amazon.co.uk already does DVD rentals, and I'm a subscriber.

    Must be a Market Acceptance tester. Similar to how some movies are released in Australia first to see whether they will float or not.

  • by el_womble (779715) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:38AM (#13279081) Homepage
    If the US service is as good as the UK service, this should do quite well. Neat little DVD holders, clever postage packaging and fast turn around and the price was significantly cheaper than renting from Blockbusters. My only complaint was that my girlfriend has taken it over. In the last month she has made me watch The Notebook, Million Dollar Baby and Piglet the Movie. Apparently, I'm not allowed to rent Shaolin Soccer because we can't both watch it?!?!?!
  • I read that some are so twitchy that a couple days delay is too much for them to bear: I read some that say Netflix is too expensive:

    As compared to what?

    As a WalMart Rental ejectee, I find Netflix to be fair, honest, fast, and have a great selection.

    I suggest that being so twitchy is nothing to be proud of, and those who don't consider it a fair deal ~$20/month, a large pizza, for three outstanding to say what a fair deal is? Is $5 too much? If so, it should, and effectively is, a free service, so just say
    • As compared to what?

      Presumably as compared to other entertainment alternatives. It depends a lot on how many movies you want to watch per month. You need to rent more than one disk a week to make it comparable to dropping by the video store (depending on how close they are, how much you mind returning movies, etc.)

      But if you instead spent $60 on a video game and then spent three months playing it, you break even. Or you can buy several books. Hell, going outside is free.

      You're right that Slashdotters of
  • Better website? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aggressivepedestrian (149887) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:43AM (#13279116)
    I think one thing Amazon will have going for them is their website. Assuming they leverage a lot of their existing code, their initial US launch should be miles ahead of Netflix. While Amazon is constantly adding new features that help me find interesting things in the long tail [wired.com], I don't think Netflix has made an improvement to their website in the two years I've been a customer.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Netflix, but the recommendations they make for me are almost always off target. On the other hand, Amazon is always presenting me with interesting recommendations on music and books.

    That's just one feature that I expect they will execute better than Netflix. They also have a slew of fetaures Netflix doesn't offer. Some of the ones I've found useful include "the page you made", "customers who bought this also bought this", "customers who viewed this also viewed this".

    Then's there's "Artist Essentials". Just getting into jazz but overwhelmed by the many choices for say, Ella Fitzgerald? Then check out her "Artist Essentials". It's just a static list, so how hard could it be to implement? But if you want an opinion from Netflix about the best movies of, say, Jim Jarmusch, well, you're just SOL.

    All in all, I'd say Amazon's entry into this market will introduce some good competition, and we're all going to benefit.
  • by north.coaster (136450) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:48AM (#13279174) Homepage

    Meanwhile, the cable companies continue to deploy video on demand. And it looks like TiVo will soon offer content programming downloads via the web [pvrblog.com]. Why would I want to rent DVDs?

    • DVD's: No ads. Only content that you want to watch. Not paying the cable companies. Those are the main reasons that there's no cable TV, broadcast TV, satellite TV, or TV programming of any kind, whatsoever in my house (unless it's on a DVD, of course).
  • Since Amazon have already shown they're not entirely US-centric by doing DVD rentals in the UK and Germany, it'd be nice if they brought it up here too.

    Canadians like movies too!
  • is they don't know how to design a good-looking and easy to use website. Netflix's site is nearly perfect, but Amazon's pages are too complicated, tie in to too many things, and finding your way around can be too circuitious.

    I'll admit they've improved a lot recently (their new book pages are great), but I think they've got too much historical cruft in the mix to be truly committed to good, simple interface design.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:22AM (#13279480)
    Wow. To get full value from my $17.99 per month subscription, I have to force feed myself a minimum of three movies a month forever! Stress! ArgH! Must visit website. Mst watch moveiss. . . Hlp. Where did I put that return envelope. Go out tonight with friends? Can't! Must watch movies! What's good? Who cares! Must make minimum allotment or face vague penalty of paying weird premium for weird disk in mail service.

    Okay.

    To be fair, the Netflix model sounds like a pretty good deal for people whose lives happen to circulate around watching lots and lots of movies. I've been there, and it can be a lot of fun when you're in that head-space.

    But for me, it sounds like WAY too much trouble. --Like working for a company which gives you a pager and has you on-call 24/7. Knowing that I MUST watch 3 movies at some point during the month seems very stressful to me. I'd rather be able to get a movie when I feel like it and not feel that it is yet another item on my To Do list.

    I can happily go for a couple of months without ever watching a DVD, and then I'll blow several nights in a row consuming something which catches my interest, (like the ill-fated Bruce Campbell TV Western series, "Brisco County Jr." --Which was unbelievably cool, but is only available from my friend who downloaded pirate copies from the web and burned them to disk for me because the series was never officially released.). --And then I'll happily watch nothing for another three months.

    Perhaps Netflix could offer non-member limited rental packages with no deadlines on some of those funky single-use disks. --Subscriptions bother me. I don't like feeling 'obligated' to do anything, particularly with regard to my free time activities. Though, it seems to me that the rent-a-DVD-by-mail business model depends rather heavily on the various forms of psychological momentum subscriptions create, so I somehow doubt short term purchases will come about.


    -FL

  • by MDMurphy (208495) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:37AM (#13279609)
    Amazon bought IMDB a while back, and luckily, hasn't screwed it up. The IMDB is the best source for movie and TV info online. When Amazon bought it, the only obvious change was making the "buy it" link in the upper left corner always point to Amazon.

    If they tie it in with the IMDB, that would be pretty handy. Search for "Virginia Madsen" and you see a list of all her movies, with boxes next to the ones available for rental. Tick the ones you want and they get added to your queue.
    This is also a plus since you could search with IMDB for any movie, not just the ones they stock. Want a movie that isn't out on DVD yet? Add it to a wish list.

    Amazon also has the setup with used DVDs ( and books ) to ofer deals if you want to buy the movies instead of, or after, renting them. I'd expect them to let you know how long your wait will be for a rental while offering a shorted length if you want to buy one now.

    Amazon also didn't pump up the IPO by paying spammers like Netflix did. Netflix will always be tainted by that.
  • they probably already have thousands of DVDs in stock from customer returns, many of which cannot be returned to the distributor. Why not turn around and rent these out and realize some profit on them instead of writing them off?

  • book rental (Score:3, Interesting)

    by huphtur (259961) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:27PM (#13280065)
    i wonder if its possible to do book rental and if amazon will ever do this?
  • by precogpunk (448371) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:51PM (#13280291) Journal
    This has been said before but Amazon has a recommendation engine that's light years ahead of what Netflix has. I've been an Amazon customer for longer, have bought more product from them, and so has everyone else. Even after rating 300 movies and reviewing several Netflix makes the stupidest movie recommendations while Amazon prove insightful most of the time.

    Amazon has the distribution, but also the ability to cross-sell a lot more than Netflix. It's probably a lot easier for them to sell you the movie if you rent it and like it. They have better promotional opportunities, like including free rental coupons if you buy DVDs.

    The one thing Amazon doesn't have going for it is customer service. Have you ever had a problem with your order? One time someone sent me a gift from my wish list, they could not select the address it was shipped to, and it got lost. It was a complete headache trying to resolve the issue and contact their customer support. Netflix, on the other hand, has amazed me with how good their service is. One time I sent my own DVD back instead of the rental, so I emailed them, and they managed to find it and mail it back to me a couple of weeks later. I also had a real, live, human who answered the email. Unless Amazon shows improvement I'll be sticking with Netflix.

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