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Review: Blockbuster Total Access


I’ll admit, for the last few years I have been very anti-Blockbuster. The increasing rental rates and the fiasco surrounding late fees were among the many reasons for my displeasure. There are a number of alternatives out there, but none of them were quite what I was looking for – so in the end I pretty much stopped renting movies altogether. That is until Blockbuster released their Total Access Program.

Naturally, the question on everyone’s lips is whether or not Total Access is really better than Netflix. As of this moment, the answer is yes. Netflix lacks the brick and mortar locations to effectively compete with the Total Access customer’s ability to exchange online rentals at a local store. The bottom line is that if you are fairly diligent about returning your movies, you can get a lot more DVDs per month than you can with the Netflix program.

How many movie rentals are possible you say? Well, I was able to rent 29 movies over the course of a month on the $17.99 plan (14 online / 14 exchange / 1 coupon) – and I believe that total could have been even higher if I was faster on the turnaround and there had not been the occasional problem with my online queue.

That having been said, continue on after the break for a list of Total Access program pros and cons:


Pros:

  • Pricing structure is the same as Netflix, but you can return your movies to Blockbuster locations in exchange for new titles. This allows you to rent more movies per month because the mailing turnaround delay is taken out of the equation.
  • Customers get one online coupon per month for a free in-store movie or game rental.
  • Online queue is intuitive and simple to use
  • Blockbuster offers estimated arrival dates for the movies – and they were generally right on the money
  • Blockbuster sends emails to let you know when movies have been shipped or received
  • If there is a problem with the DVD shipment, it can be cleared up quickly and easily in the queue by clicking “Report Problem”
  • Online rentals will generally be received in two or three days
  • Users can set preferences and rate movies that will help Blockbuster deliver personalized recommendations
  • Good selection, fairly quick availability of new releases

Cons:

  • I frequently ran into trouble with my queue when returning online rentals to the store. When the movies are returned, your queue should clear and the next movies should be sent on their way. However, the returned movies were slow to disappear from my queue or they did not disappear at all. Fortunately, clicking on “Report Problem” after a few days will clear up the issue – but precious time has already been wasted.
  • Blockbuster recommends that 30 movies be in your queue at all times, which is fine – but it can create a problem. With so many movies in your queue, it is easy to forget what is on there. That means you run the risk of renting a movie in the store and simultaneously receiving it online. I suppose this problem would be eliminated if you keep on top of your queue, but it would be nice if some sort of cross checking technology was implemented. In my experience the best way to manage this is to rent your B-list movies online and save the A-lists and new releases for the in store exchange.

Nerd ApprovedBottom Line: As I previously mentioned, if you are going to go with a traditional online movie rental service, Blockbuster Total Access is it. If provides a great value over renting movies the old fashioned way, and if you are a big movie buff, you can get more DVDs in a month than you will know what to do with.

The obvious benefits of the Total Access plan have lead it to achieve a user base of over 2 million subscribers in only a few short months. Netflix has offered up their first counterattack with a new Watch Now program that will allow subscribers to stream up to 18 hours of free movie / tv content per month (depending on their plan) directly to their PC. While this is certainly and intriguing concept, it will only be seriously utilized by those who have a big monitor or some sort of media center PC configuration. Still, I would expect that this is only the first attempt Netflix will make to compete more effectively with Blockbuster.

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