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Blockbuster Movie Pass Wants to Compete with Netflix

Netflix lost support of some customers with its new pricing plans. Can the Dish Network/Blockbuster video plan woo them away?

Over the past few months Netflix has made some controversial decisions--a price hike and an announcement that the video service would spin off its DVD-by-mail service--that have upset a goodly section of the company's customers. The real question is: Can other providers capitalize on Netflix customer dissatisfaction?

[Read: Netflix Splits in Two, Adds Video Games, Upsets Users Further]

Dish Network's new Blockbuster Movie Pass plan, announced Friday, certainly is aimed at Netflix's dissatisfied customers. The new service from Dish Network offers more than 100,000 movies, TV shows, and games by mail at a flat rate. It also offers 4,000 movies for streaming on your PC at dishonline.com, and another 3,000 for viewing on your television. At $9.99 a month for one disc, this seems like what customers have begged for for months: The old Netflix back at its old price.

In practice, however, things aren't that simple. To get Blockbuster Movie Pass, you have to be a current Dish Network customer or sign up with the service. Customers have complained that splitting Netflix into two services creates unnecessary confusion and extra work, but the Dish Network plan may be an overreaction in the opposite direction.

[Read: Dish, Blockbuster Announce $10/Month Alternative to Netflix]

Pros and Cons

While depending on just one source for your streaming video, live TV, and disc-by-mail services does have advantages, it also limits itself to customers who must switch to Dish Network as their provider for all three. Unless you're happy with every part of the package, you're paying for something you don't need.

There are also problems with the streaming service in its current form. While Dish Network touted a superior selection of streaming titles (34,000 to an estimated 31,000 streaming titles from Netflix), those estimates are scattered across two different types of streaming. With the Blockbuster Movie Pass setup, set-top streaming and online streaming have separate libraries of available titles.

Some titles will be available on both, some only on your Dish Network TV, and some online. This arrangement very well could cause confusion for customers. Additionally, Dishonline.com does not yet work on any devices besides your home PC, so customers who want to stream to their tablets or mobile phones are out of luck.

What may really kill the deal for many customers, however, is the price. While Movie Pass is available for $9.99 a month, that price buys you a fairly limited selection of streaming titles. Over half of the promised 34,000 streaming titles are only available when you sign up for a $79.99-a-month America's "Everything" package from Dish Network. Pay the extra ten bucks a month for your Blockbuster Movie Pass and that means that the Dish Network plan would cost more than ten times more a month than Netflix's instant watch plan.

Dish Network executives seemed convinced that consumers don't want to replace their cable and satellite providers and that bundled packages like this week's offering is what customers want. For those who just want the occasional extra movie to supplement their live TV that may be true, but the result is a package that seems tailored to people dissatisfied not with Netflix, but with their cable or satellite provider.

Bottom Line: The Blockbuster Movie Pass is an interesting value-add for Dish Network subscribers, but is too expensive for consumers who just want to dump Netflix.

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