+ Supports multiple platforms for streaming
+ Subscription includes 4 DVD rental credits
- Movie selection is lacking
Redbox Instant is a subscription-based video streaming service that specializes in movies.
With Blockbuster and Hollywood Video franchises closing down left and right, Redbox was one of the few companies to enter the media rental market and soon had practically a monopoly over the industry. When online streaming services like Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video came into the mix, Redbox’s business suffered greatly which caused them to reconsider their strategy.
Due to the change in market conditions, Redbox decided to adopt their own online video streaming model and coupled the subscription plan with DVD credits that could be redeemed at any local Redbox kiosk. I am just finishing up the free 30-day trial of Redbox Instant so this review is based off my experience thus far.
A Redbox Instant subscription provides a free 1-month trial then rebills at $8/month for the rest of your account’s existence. This is on par with competitors like Hulu Plus and Netflix, which both charge $7.99/month for unlimited streaming. An advantage of Redbox Instant in comparison to the others is that the $8/month fee includes unlimited streaming as well as 4 credits for physical DVD rentals at your local Redbox kiosk.
Each credit is equal to a one night rental of any DVD or Blu-Ray (depending on subscription level), but you lose a credit for each additional day you keep the it past the next-day return date. So if you’re punctual and have no issue renting a DVD, watching it that night, and returning it the following day, you’ll be able to rent 4 physical DVDs a month for no charge as the credits are included in your subscription.
The main purpose for this feature is the selection of streamable movies are fairly mediocre and it typically takes a while for new titles to become available for instant streaming (competitors also experience this). Since Redbox kiosks receive these new titles in the form of physical DVD rentals much earlier than instant streaming, this is a major advantage to a Redbox Instant subscription and only costs $4/month more than it would to rent 4 movies from a Redbox kiosk separately.
I’m not going to go much into detail on this topic, but Redbox Instant also allows consumers to rent or buy digital copies of movies through the service at a flat rate per title. On average, these rates are a couple of dollars higher than Amazon Instant Video or iTunes charges so I did not test out this feature. From my understanding, you do not need an active subscription use these digital offerings as they incur separate standalone fees.
Redbox Instant is supported on the following devices:
Redbox Instant is strictly a provider of movie content and does not include TV shows like Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, or Netflix. This may be a major disappointment to some users since the competing service offer both for the same monthly price, but to others it might be less of a problem as their main motive for signing up is to have access to movies. Instant’s movie selection is reasonable, but still a bit disappointing especially when it comes down to what titles you can instantly stream.
For example, here is the current top subscription (streamable) titles when I wrote this review:
Now here are the current popular movies that you could rent using your monthly 4 free kiosk credits:
Overall, the streaming movie selection is better than Hulu Plus (since it mainly focuses on TV shows), but Netflix does have a better selection of well-known movies to stream. I think the main factor that puts Redbox Instant in the running is their combination of unlimited streaming as well as the 4 DVD credits per month which in the end make the selection of movies at your disposal to be as competitive, if not more competitive than Netflix.
Throughout my testing of Redbox Instant, the streaming quality was consistently solid. Streaming via a web browser required me to download and install Microsoft Silverlight, but that was a simple and painless process.
I was able to stream several movies straight-through with no hiccups or bottlenecks. However, some of you who do not have a high end Internet package, might notice some buffering delays if your Internet speeds are not up to par.
In the end, I think Redbox Instant is relatively solid streaming service that has potential to take over a large portion the market share as it continues to grow. The business model is excellent, the pricing is reasonable, and there are multiple devices supported for playback. I just wish their instant streaming selection had more desirable titles, but I think over time this will improve as the service is so new. If you are simply looking to stream or rent (via a Redbox kiosk) new movies then Redbox Instant is likely a worthwhile investment. However, if you’re looking to get both movies and tv shows, you’ll want to stick with Netflix or Hulu Plus. Either way, I recommend trying out the free trial as you can get a chance to test out the service without spending a dime.
- Online video streaming via subscription
- Physical DVD rental via Redbox kiosks
- Online video rental service
$8 per month gives you unlimited streaming and 4 DVD rental credits