Blockbuster Online is one of the top DVD rental services, definitely on par with market leader Netflix, and for some renters, the better choice. They've really gone to town on the website with improvements in the past couple years. For instance, there's an excellent tutorial/tour movie which shows you effortless how to use the system--it simply doesn't get any easier than this.
They do have a real edge on Netflix in that their Total Access program allows you to bring your DVDs back to any Blockbuster store and get an instant turnaround rather than waiting for the mail to arrive. For instant gratification, there's simply no better system, a hybrid of the best of rental-by-mail, and physical stores for when you want something now.
Blockbuster's search function is well-tuned and powerful, and we especially like their 17 genre and multiple subgenre browsing system which stays on the top of the screen. It's a very useful and intuitive system. Each title has a wealth of truly stunning detail, including complete cast, director, writer, producer (all hyperlinked), rating, subtitles, language, studio, running time, and a full synopsis. They also have customer ratings and comments, recommendations for similar movies, etc. For some films, you can even view critic reviews and view trailers. They send an email notification when they dispatch a new title, though some say they come out later in the day than with Netflix.
Maintaining a queue of films is simple, and you can even do this in drag and drop fashion. In addition to their normal DVD stock, they now carry over 2,200 Blu-ray High Definition discs. If you haven't seen a Blu-ray disc on a 1080p TV you should really give it a try; the difference is amazing. And as yet, Blockbuster do not charge extra for Blu-ray rentals, and we've heard no rumors they plan to do so, unlike Netflix.
Blockbuster online was launched in August 2004, and gunned for Netflix from the start, though it still comes second in market share, with perhaps half of Netflix's 7 million subscribers in late 2007. That said, Blockbuster has massively honed its online effort--it may not quite have the inventory Netflix boasts, but its website boasts some unique features, and those who use the Total Access program and drop films off in store can really gain value. In fact, comments on the blogosphere and other fora suggest many people fed up with alleged throttling--holding back DVDs--moved over the Blockbuster, which claims not to throttle. This is a subject of much debate online, but it does appear Blockbuster is the better choice for high volume renters.
Blockbuster has followed Netflix and begun to offer video on demand downloads, though they charge varying prices, from nothing to $2.99 per film. You can either "rent"--which means watch the film within a 24-hour window, though this can be up to 30 days after downloading it, then it is erased. Or you can "buy" the film and keep it as long as you like. Keep in mind the average movie may run about 1 gigabyte, which could take up to an hour to download on a typical cable/DSL line, though you can start playback after just a couple of minutes.
In March 2010, Blockbuster announced it may file for bankrupcy--in the past year sales fell 20% and losses mounted to $558 million. Blockbuster is working with its bankers and closing marginal stores, so is unlikely to disappear entirely, but it's in for tough times ahead. This has not impacted Blockbusters' mail or video on demand services, which should remain the most profitable sector of the business and we'd expect to survive even if the bricks and mortar side of the business faltered.
Prices: Blockbuster has very competitive prices, with unlimited DVD rental from $8.99 per month for one disc out at a time, $13.99 for 2 discs out at a time, and $16.99 for three discs out at a time. If you have a local Blockbuster, you can pay three dollars more on any of these plans and get five in-store exchanges for quick turnaround with the exact film you want.
These are by far their most popular plans, but Blockbuster also have a two disc total for the month capped plan (one disc out at a time) for $3.99 per month.