Let’s be clear: Redbox and Netflix did not put Blockbuster out of business; Blockbuster put Blockbuster out of business. They were the dominant video rental company since I graduated high school, and they grew to such epic proportions they never thought they’d fail.
This week they announced they’ll be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If you haven’t heard about this already, you will.
The reason Blockbuster is dying, frankly, is because they assumed just being “bigger” made them safe. When Netflix started, it was a pretty small affair. Some Internet geek smart asses like myself used it, but it was niche, and Blockbuster didn’t see it as much of a threat. When they did, of course, they tried to implement their own mail in service, but it was too late. It was a response, not an innovation – and they paid for it.
Then Redbox came along. Am I the only one who thought those kiosks looked a little chintzy at first? It wasn’t until I really, really needed to see Moon, and they had it, that I gave it a try. Only $1? Wide selection? Locations everywhere, and I can return the movie at any one of them? THAT’S innovation!
Blockbuster tried to follow with their Blue Boxes, but again, response – not innovation.
In fact, Blockbuster never used any of it’s power to find a new way of doing it’s business. This is why they are now dying. They took the Ma and Pop video rental store model of the 80s, and created chains. They’ve had 30 years to grow into something more, and the best they ever came up with was a broadband movie rental service with Enron. Anyone remember that?
Maybe that’s the experience that made them gunshy. “We’ve got a business that works, why let ourselves get scammed again on this newfangled technology?” Then this broadband idea, which was actually a good one, was used by cable companies as On-Demand programming. So add cable to the list of conspirators that stabbed Blockbuster to death on the floor of the senate. (And that’s your mixed metaphor of the week, by the way.)
Irony: Blockbuster’s business model drove the Ma and Pop video stores out of business. Now Ma and Pop are the people who own Redbox franchises. Suck it, Blockbuster!
So Blockbuster’s decline was inevitable, thanks to poor management and being over-satisfied with their position. There was a time all one had to do was get Blockbuster to pick up a movie for their stores, and it would make millions of dollars. You know that crappy DVD you always see and wonder, “who the hell watches that!?!” The answer is no one does.
It is definitely the end of an era, but in a capitalist way, it’s a good end. Their business is going away because no one needs it anymore. If they had been more interested in innovating solutions than just sitting back and collecting late fees, things might have been different.