Still in Beta: Redbox Instant by Verizon
Last month we got our beta access code for Redbox Instant, the long-awaited streaming venture from Verizon and Coinstar.
Redbox offers 3 different pricing tiers: $6 for streaming only, $8 for streaming + 4 DVD rentals per month, and $9 for streaming + 4 Blu-ray rentals per month. And like Amazon, Redbox Instant allows you to rent or purchase digital movies also – but you can’t apply your rental credits for digital rentals. That’s $5 extra, on top of the monthly fee.
Redbox Instant is available on iOS and Xbox360, plus web browser. There aren’t apps for Android, or for any other streaming devices yet, but Redbox says more are coming soon.
If the rollout of access codes is any indication, we may be waiting a while for the Redbox app on more devices (but perhaps we’ll get some free DVD rentals out of it?) See marketing item we received, below. No beta, but have a free DVD…
Redbox also leveraged the long Beta access rollout to gain some new Facebook and Twitter followers:
And naturally, this strategy resulted in a flood of posts from their new followers on Facebook and Twitter, most of them some variation on this:
But now that we’re coded and “in,” we’re kind of yawning. Why: Redbox Instant is way behind its competitors, in terms of content. Fewer titles by far, and most of the well-known content in Redbox’s subscription catalog is already up on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or both. Just take a look at today’s “Featured” list:
Also: Redbox Instant is all movies, no episodic TV – a major drawback in my opinion. If you’re not going to do TV, you’d better at least do movies better than the other guy. And unfortunately, Redbox doesn’t.
The streaming performance leaves a bit to be desired as well. When using the Redbox app on my iPad at the farm, I noticed that it didn’t fare nearly as well on my slow (<5 Mbps) connection as the Netflix app does – the video frequently ran out of buffer. But that can be fixed – as you may remember, the Amazon Instant Video app for iPad had some issues in its early days too.
Let us say this in Redbox’s favor: They’re for-real interested in hearing from we Beta testers about how to improve the service. In addition to engaging followers on Facebook and Twitter, Redbox Instant is using “gamification” to get feedback from its beta testers via the Redhead Nation website.
How it works: Testers earn points for providing feedback on the service, answering polls, trivia questions, and the like. Every 500 points buys a chance to win a prize chosen at random – anything from a “Redhead Nation Air Freshener” (what would that even smell like? UPDATE: they sent me one; it smells like popcorn) to an Xbox360. Here are some potential Redbox prizes…
I’m not a betting person, but I’d guess they’ve got a lot of air fresheners and only one Xbox in the hopper.
Not so shocking conclusion: So far, Redbox Instant leaves a lot to be desired – namely, more content on more devices. Even though the $6/month we’re paying for streaming-only access is a bit cheaper than either Netflix ($8/month) or Amazon Prime ($8/month or $79/year,) those still feel like a better value.
Netflix killer it’s not, but if they listen to their beta testers and seriously ramp up the content and device selection, maybe Redbox Instant can at least play in the same league.
(UPDATE: Redbox Instant is now doing a public beta test, so new subscribers can sign up.)