Blockbuster Wants To Insert Itself In The Mobile Movie Experience

Blockbuster’s CEO says the company is in talks “with all the major mobile phone makers about partnerships aimed at making it easier for consumers to watch movies on the go.”

I think Blockbuster is a fascinating company to look at. They really made a success of the movie-rental business and became synonymous with that industry, then watched their business slide thanks to the likes of Netflix and fairly abusive policies that attracted plenty of consumers’ ire, but mostly because they failed to realize what their real strengths were — knowledge of their consumers and distribution in general of entertainment content. They stuck for far too long to their retail stores, and failed to really utilize technology in any meaningful way.

They tried to make up for that by launching a Netflix-style service, unlimited retail rentals and then by acquiring the mother of all content business screwups, Movielink, the studio-backed movie download site. Perhaps the only thing of value that came from this acquisition was digital rights to some movies, since Movielink itself is a proven loser.

Perhaps that’s why Blockbuster thinks it can offer something of use in the mobile market; otherwise, the CEO’s comments illustrate the reality of many areas of mobile content, where various parties are walking up to the value chain with their hand out — and that reality is one that poses a real problem. Can Blockbuster really add any value here? Their track record as a tech company says no, and their dented brand isn’t likely to be of much use either.

As I said, Blockbuster makes a good case study of a company moving far too slowly. For instance, read this BusinessWeek article from 2000. It was already clear that the brick-and-mortar video rental model was doomed, but what was the company focused on? Pay-per-view over cable and satellite TV — another strategy that didn’t go anywhere. You get the impression that Blockbuster’s real strategy is the shotgun approach, just shooting at everything in hopes something hits the target.

Of course, all of this ignores the bigger problem here: do people really want to watch full-length movies on their mobile phones?

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