Dish Offers SubsBlockbuster ‘Pass’

Dish Network is angling to shore up its
declining subscriber base — and poach disgruntled
Netflix subscribers — with Blockbuster Movie Pass, a
hybrid DVD-by-mail
and streaming service
starting at $10 extra
per month.

Initially, Dish will
offer the Internet-video
service only to its
satellite-TV customers.
Non-Dish subs
will be able to sign up
for Blockbuster service
soon, executives said.

The Blockbuster
Movie Pass service,
available starting Oct.
1, will include: 100,000-
plus movies, TV shows
and video games available
by mail; 3,000
movies available on
the TV; and more than
4,000 movies streamed
to PCs.

“We’re totally focused
on the needs of
the consumer and the
vulnerabilities of our
competitors,” said Dish CEO Joe Clayton at a press conference
in San Francisco last Friday.

Dish bought Blockbuster’s assets for $234 million in
a bankruptcy auction. The move prompted Wall Street
analysts to speculate that Dish chairman Charlie Ergen
would try to create a rival to Netflix.

Asked about the timing of the launch, given Netflix’s
marketing tribulations, Clayton commented: “There’s
an old expression: ‘No amount of planning can displace
good old luck.’ We’ll take luck, too.”

From Oct. 1 through Jan. 31, 2012, Dish is offering new
customers Blockbuster Movie Pass for no extra charge for
one year when they subscribe to the America’s Top 200
package or higher with a two-year contract. The service
also is included free for three months for new subs who
take the America’s Top 120 tier.

After the promotional period, Blockbuster Movie Pass
starts at just $10 per month for one DVD out at a time ($15
for two DVDs and $20 for three).

However, with only about 3,000 or 4,000 titles available
to stream, Dish and Blockbuster have a long way to go before
they have a viable standalone over-the-top service.

Dish has between 5 million and 6 million customers
with IP-enabled set-tops that can receive the instantstreaming
movies, Clayton said. Access to the subscription
streaming movie service requires a Dish HD DVR.

Blockbuster president Michael Kelly noted the company
has signed up 500,000 DVD-by-mail customers in
the last 30 days. In July, Blockbuster launched a countermarketing
effort after Netflix’s announcement it would
discontinue bundled DVD-plus-streaming plans. Blockbuster’s
DVD-by-mail service is still more expensive than
Netflix’s non-Blu-ray DVD plans, but the Blockbuster service
provides unlimited exchanges at retail stores.

More than 100 million U.S. residents live near
Blockbuster’s 1,500 remaining domestic stores, according
to Dish.