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11/25/2008
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Blockbuster Takes On Netflix, Apple With Direct-To-TV Player

To lure customers, Blockbuster is offering the player at no charge for people who rent 25 online Blockbuster movies in advance for $99.


Blockbuster's Direct-To-TV Player
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Blockbuster's Direct-To-TV Player

Blockbuster on Tuesday launched its own direct-to-TV player, taking on rivals Netflix and Apple in time for the holiday shopping season.

The player was built in partnership with 2Wire, a company that provides software and hardware for delivering Web content to home TVs. The 2Wire MediaPoint player makes it possible for Blockbuster subscribers with a high-speed Internet connection to rent videos online and play them on their home TV.

To lure customers, Blockbuster is offering the player at no charge for people who rent 25 online Blockbuster movies in advance for $99. After the initial rentals, movies are available for prices starting at $1.99 each.

"The player is simple to use, delivers DVD quality video, and there's no monthly subscription commitment," Jim Keyes, chairman and chief executive of Blockbuster, said in a statement.

The player operates with either a wired or wireless Internet connection, has fast-forward, rewind and pause capabilities through a remote control, and delivers DVD quality viewing. Connecting to a home entertainment system requires users to buy their own cables.

The player is about the size of two boxes of movie candy. Movies can be played immediately or saved for later.

In offering a direct-to-TV player, Blockbuster joins rivals Netflix and Apple in trying to grab some space in the home entertainment center. Besides launching its own player in May, Netflix has been aggressively pursuing makers of DVD players to support its on-demand video service and has deals with Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.

The Netflix player is built in partnership with Roku, a company specializing in digital streaming media technology. Beyond the cost of the player, Netflix subscribes can stream movies at no additional charge.

Blockbuster and Netflix also compete with the Apple TV, which connects via the Internet to Apple's iTunes music and video store. Through the device, people can rent movies and TV shows. The Apple TV has been available since last year.

While streaming and renting movies over the Web is small in terms of revenue when compared with DVD rentals, analysts believe that consumers eventually will turn to the Web for movies much like they have for music. Online music services have had a major impact on falling CD sales.

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