Blockbuster Inviting Netflix Customers to Rent Movies From Stores for Free

BlockbusterAccording to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Blockbuster is introducing a holiday promotion that will let Netflix subscribers rent Blockbuster movies for free. Here’s how it works: Netflix members can turn in the tear-off flaps from any red Netflix envelopes for free rentals at any Blockbuster store. The promotion is set to run through December 21.

Obviously, Blockbuster is using this promotion to boost exposure of its newly released “Total Access” feature, which allows customers to exchange DVDs received through the mail with DVDs available in stores. The rental chain seems willing to try anything to gain customers from Netflix.

Steve Swasey, a spokesman for Netflix, had a curious response: “I think most folks know that if you get something free you’re getting what you pay for…The very reason for online DVD rental is that you don’t have to go to the store. It’s the convenience, selection and value.”

While I agree that Netflix users aren’t as likely to walk into a rental store, the “get what you pay for” is slightly out of place. It suggests that because the DVD rental from a Blockbuster is free, it’s somehow inferior to Blockbuster’s regular offering. Are those who pay when walking into a Blockbuster getting more?

The truth is, it has little to do with pay or even convenience at this point. Blockbuster has already copycatted Netflix’s model with the added bonus of even more options (pick a store or go online, etc.). But I think even if Blockbuster offered Netflix customers the ability to mail in the tear-off flap for free rentals, the company would still have a hard time getting converts. This whole thing is turning into more of a Coke vs. Pepsi battle with active consumers needing more than a free drink to make the switch from their favorite beverage.

In any event, Blockbuster’s move is a bold one, to be sure, but how well will it work? The Netflix crowd seems to be a loyal bunch…

*Update* Take the POLL: What would make you switch from Netflix to Blockbuster?

  • ME

    i wished from netflix, blockbuster does everything better, aleast in my area.

  • Luke

    This is in no way a Coke vs. Pepsi battle. There is a huge difference between Netflix and Blockbuster and that’s why Netflix customer’s are so loyal. Netflix has excellent customer service while Blockbuster is the bloated behemoth that tried to nickel and dime its loyal customers with late fees. Blockbuster doesn’t carry NC-17 movies — I don’t need a company who takes my money to police my morals. And there is value in not having to go to a physical store location to sift through their crappy, minuscule selection. Blockbuster’s move isn’t “bold” it’s desperate.

  • Dan

    Despite the crappy, miniscule selection at most Blockbuster stores, that’s how we all rented movies until just a couple of years ago. I pay the same for Blockbuster that I would for NetFlix, but I get to rent a movie from the store when I’m feeling impulsive. To me, renting through the mail isn’t always convenient because sometimes I have to wait 3 days to get a movie I want. I think Blockbuster wants people to realize that both methods of renting have their advantages, so why not offer people both?

  • The problem has never been going to the video store it’s been going back. This offer is worthless to me because it means that I’ve got to take two trips to the store. The first for an impulse purchase that you feel good about and the second to get your movie back in time to avoid a restocking fee. If Blockbuster would allow customers to mail back their movies instead of returning them to the store, then this promotion might be more appealing for the Netflix crowd, but right now there is a lot of convenience in not having to go past my mailbox to rent or return a movie and even with a free offer it won’t coax me to drive to a store if I know I still have to return the movie.

  • Sean

    I don’t think people realize how much added value is in this Total Access plan. I have been using the blockbuster service for about a year now: 3 movies at a time for $18/month.

    Now when I get done with my 3 movies they send me, I take them to the store. Now the magic happens. They are immediately marked as returned, so the next 3 in my queue are sent. AND for each of those 3 movies I turn in there, I get to take one from the store!

    This more than doubles the amount of movies you get in a month. Pretty incredible if you’re into that kinda thing.

  • I agree with one of the above comments: It’s a desperation move (on Blockbuster’s part). Also, Blockbuster sucks. They have ticked me off one too many times to get me back in their stores. I would pay Netflix double what I’m paying them now and still consider it a good deal compared to having to interact with Blockbuster again.

  • Larry

    I switched to Netflix from Blockbuster and I don’t foresee me ever looking back. I had tons of issues with Blockbuster sending things out of order when all movies in my queue were listed as “Available Now”. And it would take 6-7 days for a turnaround versus the 2 sometimes 3 for Netflix. I’m also much happier with Netflix’s selection, multiple queues and recommendation section. While the new features Blockbuster are adding with the brick and mortar stuff is exciting it’s not worth it to me to lose the better selection and service… Now, if Netflix bought Blockbuster that’d be different.

  • Bob Caswell
  • Sam Madison

    I switched from NetFlix to Blockbuster and will never switch back. I enjoy being able to goto a BB store and rent a movie on it’s release date. Sure it’s sometimes inconvenient to get in the car, but it beats waiting 2-3 months to see movies. Because I can go in-store to rent new movies, I don’t have to worry about getting throttled like NetFlix used to do to me. More importantly though I’ve now rented over 50 movies in two months for around $40 because of Blockbuster and that aint’t half bad.

  • Logan

    I think davis freeberg nailed it for me–it’s the going back that’s the real pain. And Sean’s point about being able to return mailed movies at the store, while apparently a great feature for him, doesn’t mean anything to me. I do Netflix because I want to stay away from the store!

  • Eric L

    Going to the store involves getting in the car, parking, possible car accident, dealing with brainless employees, standing in line under floruescent lights, spending gas money, at least 30 minutes of my time (minimum). I’m finished with chain brick and morter and that includes BlockBuster. I do almost everything on line now.

  • Shaggy2

    4 Weeks FREE Blockbuster ONLINE use code1368TA

    TOTAL ACCESS allows you to return your ONLINE DVD rentals to your local Blockbuster!
    You also get a FREE rental for each one you return!

    Sign up now for Blockbuster TOTAL ACCESS at
    and enter promotion code 1368TA

    Rent online, Return to the store, Get more FREE rentals!

    Try now, Try it for FREE!

    Sign up for TOTAL ACCESS at
    and enter promotion code 1368TA

  • Movie Girl

    Blockbuster Total Access – 4 Weeks Free – Promotion Code : 1552ta

    Holiday Deal, feel free to send to your friends ! Happy Holidays !
    Promo code : 1552ta

    Here is how is works:

    1) Visit web at

    2) Enter this Promotional code “1552ta” for 4 weeks free

    3) Select your movies to your queue. The first movie will ship out that day. After you watched the movie, you can either mail back or drop in store for new one.

    4) Please send this Promo code “1552ta” to your friends and family.—-

    Make your list online from over 60,000 titles.

    Free shipping. Keep your movies as long as you want.

    Return by mail OR exchange in-store. Either way, we ship your next movie.

    Never be without a movie.

  • Ryan

    I’m with Netflix and will continue to be. I did Blockbuster’s free trial and what I discovered was that their selection was nowhere near as extensive as Netflix. Now, I’m no movie snob (a good movie is a good movie, period), but I do watch a fair amount of foreign films (both recent and classic), documentaries of all kinds, and some obscure cult classics, and I discovered that Blockbuster’s selection didn’t carry many of the movies I was interested in watching.

    In addition, I never had a problem with turnaround time with Netflix, so I’ve never really had a reason to complain.

    So unless Blockbuster has improved their selection of movies to match that of Netflix in the past couple of years, I don’t foresee myself switching. Blockbuster is “blockbuster,” after all, so if your movie tastes tend to be more on the eclectic side, I’d say you’d be more pleased with Netflix.

  • Kathy

    Blockbuster sucks. I think the final straw for me was after Hurricane Wilma here in Florida. They charged me a late fee even though no one had electricty and nothing was open. They managed to open one day and said I could have returned the movie then. Like we didn’t have other things to worry about. I subscribe to Netflix and love it.
    Blockbuster deserves to go bankrupt.

  • ellen

    Free 1 Month Blockbuster Online Movie Rental: Promo Code 1230ta expire 3/31/2007

  • kte12

    Starting December 19, 2006, Blockbuster Total Access (online) is giving customers 1 free video game rental each month plus the first month is free.

    Sign up at
    First month free with promo code 1557TA


    1. Offer changes to 2-week trial beginning Jan 15 2007. 3 movies out at a time.
    2. Members will be able to exchange online movies for titles at their local bb store for no charge. (online mailer/movie will work like a coupon). As soon as the online movies are exchanged at the store the next movies in your que will ship as well. YES YOU WOULD THEN HAVE 6 MOVIES AT ONCE WHEN THE ONLINE TITLES ARRIVE!!
    3. Members will also receive 1 in store coupon every month for a free movie OR video game (even during free month).
    4. Only $17.99 per month after the 1st month.

  • The Real

    Its simple! I check out 3 movies online + E-coupon once a month, return movies when I’m done, receive three more titles for the movies I return (Free!)+ E-coupon. So that makes four movies or games Free! (I dont recall netflix having games?). While checking in my movies at the blockbuster and receiving my free rentals, the next titles in my qeue are sent out which get to me in about one day! so lets do the math. 3 movies (online geue) + 3 Free instore rentals + Free e-coupon rental + 3 more title mailed out from online geue = 10 DVD’s!!! all done within one week! and I could do this about 3 to 4 times a month! all for only $17.99 a month. Are you serious theres no argument here, I dont care what kind of experience you’ve had with blockbuster you cant beat that deal! for the record I tried netflix and the turn around time was 3 days which is ridiculous! but like I said theres no arguement here u netflixers need to just go ahead and switch over and this thread needs to be closed!

  • DAS

    Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.

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