Monday, October 5, 2009

Netflix vs. Redbox

This is a post I've been wanting to write for some time now. The popularity of Redbox has been seriously on the rise recently, especially among my friends. I have nothing against Redbox as a company, and I think its great that they're making DVD rentals cheaper and easier.

However, I think they are far, far inferior to Netflix. In my mind, the two should not even be compared against each other. Redbox is a fine service, but it's no Netflix. Let's take a look at the two services and how they compare to each other.

Price - winner: Redbox
Netflix is a subscription based service, meaning you get a certain number of DVDs for a monthly fee. Their lowest price is $5, which gives you 2 DVDs per month. Their next price is $9 per month and gives unlimited DVDs. They offer several other price options, but for now we'll simply consider the cheapest two choices.

Redbox prices their DVDs on a per-night basis, with a simple $1 price. Keep a movie for 3 nights, pay $3. Simple as that.

So, assuming absolute fastest turnaround time for both models, a Redbox customer could theoretically get 30 discs per month, whereas a Netflix customer with the $9 monthly plan could theoretically get as many as 8 discs per month. According to, the average Netflix subscriber ends up paying approx. $2 per disc. This means that in order to make Redbox cheaper, users must only keep their DVDs for one night.

So, from a strict cost-per-disc standpoint, Redbox is cheaper. But Netflix offers so many extra features that I believe the slightly higher price is beyond worth it.

Selection - winner: Netflix
This one is a no-brainer. Netflix wins this comparison by a landslide. According to the Redbox website, you can select from over 350 different movies at the kiosks. By comparison, Netflix offers...wait for it... over 100,000 different movies.

Numbers like that speak for themselves. There really isn't much more to say. I challenge anyone to find a title that Redbox has and Netflix doesn't. Let's do a quick title search across a few genres:

Classic - Singing in the Rain: Netflix, yes - Redbox, no
Comedy - Spaceballs: Netflix, yes - Redbox, no
Romance - Chocolat: Netflix, yes - Redbox, no
Action - Iron Man: Netflix, yes - Redbox, no
New release - Lies and Illusions: Netflix, yes - Redbox, yes

Convenience - winner: toss up
This one could go either way. It all depends on your definition of what's convenient. For some people, the ability to get a particular DVD immediately from a kiosk is going to be the most convenient option. For others, the ability to get DVDs delivered without going anywhere is a more convenient option. For me, Netflix is definitely more convenient. I am terrible at remembering to return borrowed items, so Redbox discs would likely end up costing me $3 or $4 each just because I'd forget to return them. Plus, all of the Redbox kiosks I've seen are always crowded, and waiting in line is definitely not convenient.

I also find the selection issue to be part of the convenience discussion, too. Having the Redbox website constantly say, "no results found" when searching for a movie is also not convenient.

Extra features - winner: Netflix
Being a straight kiosk service, Redbox offers exactly zero extra features. You get DVDs and that's it. Netflix, however, offers all kinds of cool features, one of them being the ability to up to more expensive plans that give you more than one DVD at a time. You can also set up individual queues that share one account; for example, if you have a 2-disc per month plan, you can have one queue for the kids and one for the parents.

But Netflix's killer extra is Watch Instantly. They offer over 17,000 movies and TV shows that you can stream instantly to your computer, XBox, DVD player, TV, or other compatible device. If you have a Windows Vista (or soon Windows 7) Media Center computer, you can also stream instantly through Media Center.

There is no extra subscription fee to use Watch Instantly, either. All you need is the $9 plan or higher and a high speed Internet connection. And streaming is completely unlimited. This means that you can literally watch as many movies and TV shows as you want, in addition to the DVDs you get in the mail, for that same $9 per month.

The only real conclusion you can draw from this is that Netflix and Redbox really cannot even be compared. They appeal to very different groups of people. Redbox is great for people who only watch new releases, or who can only afford one or two movies a month. For everyone else, though, I think Netflix is the clear winner, no question.

If you have a different perspective, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. I'm an obvious Netflix fan, but I think Redbox has its place and I'm not bashing them at all. I am merely saying that they're so different that it's not really fair to compare.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:18 PM

    Netflix only has a $9 plan, which would allow you about 9 rentals a month. That $1 a movie.
    Redbox allows you all the movies you want for $1 each.

    Seems like a tie in cost per movie with redbox allowing you more movies a month.

    Netflix costs you $9 even if you dont rent 9 movies. Suppose you only rent 3 movies that month.

    Winner: Redbox