Blockbuster Online Adds Store Returns

In its continuing battle with Netflix, Blockbuster announced Wednesday that it was changing its online rental service to allow users to return their movies in-store in exchange for free rentals. The new service would be available to all Blockbuster Online users.

Blockbuster Online had 1.5 million subscribers as of the end of September, a 50 percent increase. Over the past quarter, the service added 150,000 new subscribers. This is still far smaller than Netflix, which counts 5.7 million subscribers and added 493,000 new customers in the third quarter.

"Customers shouldn't have to choose between renting online versus in-store, and they should never have to be without a movie," Blockbuster chairman and CEO John Antioco. "Now, thanks to Blockbuster Total Access, they don't have to."

Users would not have to take advantage of the free in-store rental if they so decide. If they do not, the return of the movie would trigger the shipment of the next movie in the user's queue. Blockbuster said this would likely speed shipments by up to a day or more.

"We believe Total Access will help us achieve our goal of two million subscribers by year-end, position us to grow our subscriber base in the future and assist us in increasing our share of the overall rental market," Antioco said.

Blockbuster has several levels of membership, beginning with $5.99 USD per month up to $17.99 USD per month for an unlimited plan. The company will also offer a two-week free trial membership, including promoting it to previous customers of the service in an apparent attempt to lure lost users back.

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