Warner Brothers wants the 28 day window between sales and rentals of new DVDs and Blu-ray discs it’s negotiated with Netflix and Redbox to be even longer — and it wants big retail chains like Blockbuster to submit to the window, too.
Blockbuster told Warner Brothers “No” and is buying WB DVDs on the open market instead. “They felt it was important to continue to offer day and date rental so rather than work with us they went around us,” Warner Bros Home Entertainment president Kevin Tsujihara told the Financial Times.
So I guess we won’t be seeing WB movies or TV shows on that new Blockbuster-DISH streaming network any time soon.
Withholding streaming rights is really the only stick the movie studios have in this fight to prop up physical media. As far as carrots, they’re mostly for customers, and they’re mostly digital. Ultra Violet is a new(ish) digital locker service that offers a free, cloud-stored streaming copy for purchased movies. Warner Brothers and Blockbuster are partners in the Ultra Violet Alliance, and it was an argument over Warner’s first Ultra Violet-betokened DVDs (Horrible Bosses and The Green Lantern, I kid you not) that led to the fight over the 28-day window.
It’s likely that other studios will press Blockbuster and perhaps other retail chains for the same terms. Warner Brothers was the first studio to push the 28-day window with Redbox, and then with Netflix, but in both cases, Fox, Sony, Universal and others followed suit. If that happens, and Blockbuster caves, it will effectively be the end of new release DVD rentals — or possibly the secret salvation of the small number of independent video stores we have left.
“The question is: how do we make ownership more valuable and attractive?” Tsujihara tells the FT. Besides “don’t make crappy superhero movies like Green Lantern,” I don’t know. Sometimes it seems like everyone involved with the industry is working to make everything about discs as cumbersome and unattractive as possible.
It’s bizarre that just as digital media has effectively closed the day-and-date gap — in all industries, from movies to books to comics — it’s popping up again in the physical rental market. For people who have the option, there’s no contest between downloading a movie from iTunes or Amazon on release day and waiting a month to go and rent it from a chain store. You don’t even have to leave the house or open the door, and you still get it right now.
The other big winner has to be Netflix. Either Blockbuster eventually buckles, and loses its first-day advantage over Netflix by mail, or they go broke (again) paying retail prices for DVDs and lose a shot at all the best streaming content. Either way, suddenly the studios have an unlikely new best friend.