Netflix vs. Blockbuster: A heated debate between two extremists


I am a devout Netflix user. My coworker, Andy, raves about the new Blockbuster service. For today’s post we were able to take a closer look at the habits of the users of the two online movie rental sites. Using Compete data we created a list of the top 10 most browsed movies on the two competing sites. Using these lists Andy and I will objectively debate which service is better and why. As always, please chime in by commenting. Let us know which service you prefer.

Opening Arguments:

Ryan Says: Netflix is the perfect example of the "long tail" theory in action (Chris Anderson even said so). While Netflix.com hosts over 2X the people of Blockbuster.com, the top ten browsed movies on Netflix attract a much smaller percentage of total site audience than those of Blockbuster. The reason is the breadth of films available on Netflix is so far superior that users spread themselves throughout the "long tail” which includes hard to find independent and foreign films. Most of these films are not even available at lesser services like"¦.I don’t know"¦say, Blockbuster. Boom! 

Andy Says: Confession: I used to be a Netflix member. But that was a few years ago and I like to think that I’ve grown up and become more knowledgeable since then, so I am now a Blockbuster online member. I have to admit that having a Blockbuster store within a few blocks of where I live biases me a little, but with a membership base rumored to be around 43 million households, it seems that at least one of the nearly 6000 Blockbuster stores in America is in a convenient location for a lot of people. The convenience of being able to return videos to the store and browse (a process I fully admit to enjoying) the selection in person has led me to many movies I may have missed, and to less time spent online searching them out.

Digging further into the data we found that Blockbuster users average two sessions per month, compared to three sessions from Netflix users. It seems that I’m not the only one spending less time online looking for movies. 

Parting Jabs:

Ryan Says: Great point Andy! Confession: Blockbuster is inferior. The option of exchanging movies in the store defeats the whole purpose of online movie rentals. That’s like buying a plasma tv that has a black and white mode. Weak.

Moving on, Netflix draws a savvier, more informed client than Blockbuster. Thus I enjoy associating myself with the service, sharing my recommendations, and reading the reviews of others. While my fellow Netflixer is likely to have the thought provoking documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated in his queue, your average Blockbuster user is pumped because he can drop off Employee of the Month in exchange for Snakes on a Plane at their local store on the way back from an all you can buffet at Denny’s. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Andy Says: The option of returning dvds to the store doesn’t “defeat the purpose of online rentals” because it is just that; an extra option. Now let’s take a minute to look at the "savvy" Netflix top ten"¦ The Descent? That sounds a lot like the Netflix business model. This Film Is Not Yet Rated — No, but it was reviewed, and it’s not good. The tagline for Lady in the Water is "Time is running out for a happy ending." Maybe that’s true, but I’m sure there will be plenty of time for an M. Night to showcase his award-winning worst supporting actor skills. And how long until Netflix adopts this as their own tagline? Ryan, this Worst Picture Nominee was one of your "well-informed" recommendations last month, right? And the real hidden gem in the list that all of us at Blockbuster are missing out on: Step Up. But really, it was a fine movie, the first time I saw it – five years ago when it was called Save the Last Dance. And last, but not least, Crash. More like Crash and burn, Netflix. Crash and burn.


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