Cable’s Inroads Against DVD Rentals

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Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings said in a recent USA Today article that the DVD movie-rental business isn’t obsolete yet, but could be within four to nine years as electronic distribution of theatricals catches on.

Comcast and its cable peers are working hard to put the DVD-rental business to sleep earlier rather than later.

Comcast this summer is working with several studios to offer a 48-hour rental period for VOD movies, to compete with the DVD-rental chains like Blockbuster and Netflix, which allow more in-home viewing time than cable’s current 24-hour rental window.

Studios such as Warner Bros., Lionsgate, Walt Disney and Summit Entertainment are working with Comcast to offer selected titles within the 48-hour rental window.

That’s on top of the continued inroads cable is making in shortening the window between the time a movie hits video rental store shelves and when it debuts in living rooms on-demand.

Marquee Hollywood titles such as Summit’s Knowing and Push; Warner Bros.’ Watchmen and 17 Again; and Universal’s The Last House on the Left and Duplicity will all premiere over the next two months on demand simultaneously with DVD releases.

Studios are less worried about cannibalizing profitable DVD sales and are experimenting more with the cable industry to deliver shorter movie windows and longer rental times in an effort to drive revenues in an otherwise sluggish environment. Apart from DVD rental stores, cable still must compete with Netflix as it evolves from mail delivery to online video streaming.

It’s not just Netflix. Apple and Amazon.com are also fighting to establish the pre-eminent Web-based streaming movie rental service. Amazon last week said it’s offering seven-day rentals on some smaller titles, according to fellow Reed Business Information outlet Video Business.

The provider that can deliver the most convenient home-viewing experience at the best price with the strongest customer service support and greatest selection of content will be the winner in what’s expected to be a lucrative, digital movie rental future.

A movie rental future that will revolve more around a TV remote or computer mouse, and less around a shiny disc.

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