In its bid to keep pace with rivals, Blockbuster Inc. has reached a deal with Samsung Electronics America to offer its OnDemand movie rental service through Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and home theater systems.
The rental giant said the service, available this fall, would give Blockbuster customers the option of renting newly released movies without driving to the neighborhood video store or waiting for home delivery of a DVD through the mail. Viewers could browse, order and watch films using their remote controls -- as long as they have the right hardware, and the TV set or Blu-ray player is connected to the Internet.
The on-demand service extends the reach of Blockbuster, which has sought to counter competitive threats by offering rentals through the mail, Internet and free-standing kiosks.
"It's one thing to be on a PC. It's another to have a Blockbuster digital movie service in millions of homes throughout America," said Kevin Lewis, Blockbuster's senior vice president of digital entertainment. "That, to me, signifies that this is no longer a niche. This is no longer a hobbyist thing."
Other video services have reached similar arrangements with television manufacturers, which are eager to give consumers reasons to buy a TV with Internet connectivity.
Movies-by-mail service Netflix Inc. has announced deals with Samsung, Korea's LG Electronics Inc. and Sony Electronics Inc. to enable movies to stream on certain types of televisions. Amazon.com Inc. offers its Video on Demand service through the Sony Bravia and Panasonic Viera Internet-connected televisions. Both services also are compatible with the TiVo DVR, Roku Digital Video Player and some other products.
"You're enhancing the content available to the consumer," said John Revie, Samsung's senior vice president of marketing for visual display products. "We think this is an application that the consumer has demanded, they're interested in and can appreciate."
The Blockbuster OnDemand service will be integrated into new Blu-ray players, home theater systems and high-definition televisions sold in the fall, and some 2009 models can be updated to be compatible. People with the right hardware will be able to access both Netflix and Blockbuster services.
Not everyone is convinced that consumers are clamoring for yet another way to rent movies in their homes.
"These products become like the kids' Christmas toys. They're fun for a couple of weeks," said Kurt Scherf, an analyst with Parks Associates in Dallas. "But because of the ability to get video-on-demand movies from so many other sources -- like the cable service, like Netflix -- they fade into the background."