Why Blockbuster Total Access Doesn’t Work

Blockbuster Total AccessIn theory, Blockbuster has a better offering than Netflix in that it “lets you rent online with the flexibility to exchange movies in-store, so you never have to wait for a movie.” That is, according to the marketing pitch plastered all over its homepage. But I decided to see just how “total” Total Access is, and I found it pretty lacking. In short, over half the movies in my Netflix queue are not available at my local Blockbuster.

So I could switch to Blockbuster and have the added “flexibility” of exchanging movies in store. But it would honestly be more of a headache to micromanage the discrepancy between what I want to see and what’s available in the actual store. I’d rather wait and see what I really want to see.

I remember when Blockbuster locations had decent selection. But nowadays, the stores located closest to my past two addresses have all been half the size of the Blockbusters I browsed growing up. And let’s not forget the focus: hundreds of copies of new releases so as to be “guaranteed” in stock while other movies get demoted to only one copy that is often checked out indefinitely (yes, there is a downside to no late fees).

And what if you’re not interested only in box office hits released within the last five years? The sales associate hovering uses it as reason enough to ask, “Have you tried Blockbuster Online because that movie isn’t available in our store.”

So why don’t I try using Blockbuster Online then? Well, I did, and it seemed fine. The problem? I don’t have a single friend who uses Blockbuster Online. All my friends who rent movies online use Netflix. The social side of movie watching has never been better; I use it as a way to stay in touch with high school / college buddies. We see what each of us has been watching lately, rate movies, leave comments, etc. It’s great fun.

Will I never go to Blockbuster again? Not necessarily. There do seem to be those few times a year when I impulsively want to “browse and pick” (even if my wife isn’t a big fan of that move). Of course, now that I have access to streaming movies via Netflix (which so far seems to work extremely well for me), my token in-store browsing time may shrink even more.

  • Netflix does seem to have a lot more die-hard fans than Blockbuster. Either way this competition keeps the prices low for everyone.

    Netflix has also taken a lot more proactive role in nurturing young movie producers with their program – I think it’s called Red Envelope or something similar – where they encourage and finance independent films. Blockbuster is a bit more about the money.

  • Blockbuster customers overwhelmingly prefer new releases to older catalog movies. I work in LA, movie capitol of America, right? I remember when we removed the foreign section from our store on Larchmont. The customers, save for a couple, didn’t even notice! So, of course, the Blockbuster Total Access catalog is skewed toward new releases, but the actual sizes of the comparative catalogs is pretty close. Especially considering that Blockbuster will ship videos directly out of its stores– it doesn’t do that as much as its warehouse capacity has increased, but for a while many of the stores were shipping out catalog titles at a surprising pace!

    The beauty of the Total Access program was that it offered a convenient blend of catalog movies available anytime and new releases since you could exchange your rentals for New Releases in the store. Within the past few months, customers even had the option of having movies rented in the store automatically removed from their queues. The real problem with that is that our No Late Fees policy absolutely decimated the in-store supply of New Releases! No one brings them back!

    It really saddens me that Blockbuster is deemphasizing Total Access. It was one of the few areas where I could, for a while anyway, say “See? This is something Blockbuster got right!”

  • Yeah, Earnest, unfortunately Blockbuster seems to be scrambling a bit, not knowing what to do next.

  • I honestly feel that had blockbuster put late fees back in place and had all new release rentals as 1 night rentals- they’d be back in the cash, keeping it at $17.99 for 3-out unlimited exchanges.

    That would’ve been the best business move ever.

  • That’s funny, Fred, considering many who follow this might think Blockbuster’s traditional model was doomed for failure. But for all their pseudo-progressiveness, maybe they should have just stuck with the status-quo…

    Hindsight is always 20-20, but it seems hard to believe that they’d be worse off than they are now.

  • Boris

    Total Access was an economically artifical service. I don’t know what they were thinking. BB tried movie pass a few years ago for $25 to $30 a month with 2 or 3 disc unlimited from the stores, but hardly 2 million signed up and they discontinued.

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