Saturday, October 08, 2005

Redbox rocks!

I'd been puzzled as to why there wasn't more chatter in the blogosphere about Redbox; now I've found the answer. Apparently it is still in "test marketing" phase, or at least early in its rollout. It's available in eight metro areas across the US: St. Louis, Houston, Baltimore/DC, Hartford, Denver/Minneapolis-St. Paul, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

This is going to be huge, folks. If you're not living in an area where it's available already, it sucks to be you, and it's going to be even better when it covers the whole United States.

What is Redbox? Briefly, McDonald's is in the process of becoming the world's largest DVD rental chain.

Located in each (and every) McDonald's restaurant in the areas served, there's a big red vending machine from which the customer may rent DVDs. Not a huge selection, but the newest releases and a reasonable catalog of current stuff (it looks like they recycle some kids' titles of enduring popularity). Click here for their catalog.

- Price: $1 per day, billed to your credit or debit card each day.

- Late fees: None -- if you keep the movie for 25 days, they stop billing and it's yours. $25 is a little steep for a DVD, but it's not gouging territory by any means ... and other video chains just keep piling on the late fees.

A buck a day may seem a little high, but not really. Sure, most chains rent DVDs for three or four bucks for five days, but that's not much cheaper than Redbox. And if you only keep the movie for a day or two, you've saved money.

Here's the kicker: Remember the each/every mention above?

- Redbox lists 128 locations in the St. Louis area. For purposes of comparison, Hollywood Video lists nine and Blockbuster lists 15.

- You can return a Redbox movie to any Redbox machine, which means you can return it to any McDonald's. If you're in one part of town when you rent, you don't have to go back there to return. Already, I've rented a movie at a shopping center we visit once or twice a week, and returned it at a McDonald's near my younger son's school.

Perversely, the "limited selection" aspect is something I like. Anyone who's been in a traditional video store with two pre-teen kids will likely understand. Instead of tearing around the store for 45 minutes trying to decide on a movie, the kids have 5-10 titles from which to select, and they have to stand in front of the machine to do it. It reduces that 45 minutes to 2 or 3 minutes.

From an adult standpoint, the limited selection is fine, too. If I want something out of the ordinary, I can go to a "regular" store (if they survive Redbox), or just buy it online for not much more than it would cost to rent it. Most of the time, I either want a new release or don't know what I want and am happy to pick from the available selection.

The "return anywhere" bit is going to be big now that many vehicles are equipped with DVD players. Ours isn't, but I can see the value -- on a family road trip, you can pull into McDonald's in Topeka, Kansas for dinner, rent a movie ... and then drop it off and rent another when you pull into another McDonald's in Denver for breakfast the next morning (once the system has proliferated to all markets, of course).

A little more on selection, just to give a view of what's available and pitch some affiliate links: So far, we've rented "Robots," "Lilo & Stitch 2," "Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin -- The Untold Story," "Because of Winn Dixie," "Sin City," "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," "Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl" and "The Wiggles: Sailing Around the World." Obviously a kid-heavy rental record -- the adults in this house don't have as much time to watch movies.

I'm lovin' it.

[Note: This blog entry also appears on The Longer Tail]

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