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Poll: Should Hollywood make you wait longer to rent a movie?

October 28, 2011 |  3:45 pm

DVDs for sale at Best Buy

My colleague Ben Fritz reports that at least some of the studios are thinking about making Redbox wait up to 60 days for the DVDs it puts in its rental kiosks. Bloomberg reports that the same delay may be imposed on Netflix and other rental outlets as well. The apparent goal is to boost the sale of DVDs, Blu-ray discs and downloadable movies by making consumers wait longer to rent them.

I've opined before that I don't think Hollywood can convert renters into buyers just by making legitimate versions of its products more scarce. One reason, I think, is the effect that TiVo and its ilk has had on consumers.

As much as the Internet is shaking up Hollywood, the more fundamental disrupter has been the digital video recorder. The DVR liberated consumers from the dictates of the primetime schedule, encouraging them to create their own nightly lineups of shows. That made them more willing to record shows for later viewing, something that a fraction of homes with VCRs did with any regularity.

Just as important, the program-finding capabilities of TiVo and other sophisticated DVRs introduced viewers to shows they wouldn't have discovered otherwise. I remember thinking, back when I first used TiVo, that I never knew how much good stuff there was on TV. That's because TiVo looked at everything on all the channels, while I had been seeing only what was being aired when I happened to turn the TV on.

Almost half of all U.S. homes now have a DVR, which means those effects are pervasive. It may be too much of a stretch, but I think the evidence can be seen in what's happening in Hollywood's home-entertainment business.

Sales of DVDs have been falling steadily in recent years, far outpacing the decrease in the sale of Blu-ray discs. Meanwhile, rentals have been climbing, particularly through such low-cost options as subscription services and kiosks. That's despite some studios' moves to keep their movies off of Netflix and Redbox until four weeks after they'd been released on DVD -- a delay that hurt Redbox, but only briefly. Given the abundance of good entertainment options, people don't seem to mind waiting longer to watch something they're interested in, especially when it costs them less to do so.

What do you think about these reports? Would you buy more movies if you had to wait longer for the rental versions to become available? Do you mind waiting longer to get the rental you want at a lower price? Take our hopelessly unscientific poll, leave a comment, or both!


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--Jon Healey

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