Blockbuster's New Movie Player Stifled by Rental Rules

Studios burden rentals with time limits that make subscriptions more attractive

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Movie studios continue to cripple online rentals with unreasonable time limits. The issue was raised again with Blockbuster's announcement of its MediaPoint digital player, which will bring its online movie rentals directly to TVs.

Blockbuster touts its service as better than rivals because it includes newer titles. That's made possible because Blockbuster rents its movies, as opposed to the Netflix streaming service that is part of a monthly subscription. Studios release movies earlier to companies that rent (or sell) movies online, such as Vudu and Apple, and later to subscription providers.

But I prefer the subscriptions, even if the movies come a bit later. Convenience is the most important factor for me in using online movie services, and time limits on rentals are worse than inconvenient. They're a ripoff.

Like others, Blockbuster's digital rentals typically must be watched in 30 days, which is reasonable. They also must be finished within 24 hours of first pushing the "play" button, which is not. I often take several days to watch a typical movie at home, where kids or sleep beckon. I can't imagine getting through three hours of a movie like The Godfather in a single sitting.

And it'd likely be at least 24 hours before I get another sitting.

The studios worry too much that we'll watch a rented movie more than once. Until they ease up, I won't be watching many digital rentals even once.