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NEW YORK (AP) — Phone company Verizon Communications Inc. will challenge Netflix and start a video streaming service this year with Redbox and its DVD rental kiosks.
Verizon and Coinstar Inc., Redbox’s parent company, said Monday that the service will be national and available to non-Verizon customers as well. It adds another dimension to Verizon’s quest to become a force in home entertainment, and it looks set to compete to some extent with the cable-TV services it already sells.
Unlike competing services from Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the new service will combine Internet delivery of movies with DVDs, the way Netflix does. Dish Network Corp. also offers a similar bundle through its Blockbuster subsidiary.
Specific details and pricing of the new plan weren’t announced.
Late last year, the companies were shopping around a $6-per-month offering that would give subscribers one DVD rental from Redbox per month as well as unlimited streaming of a certain selection of movies, according to a person briefed on the plan then. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
It’s not known whether the plan has changed since then, though the price is likely to be less than the $16-a-month minimum that Netflix subscribers have to pay for a combined DVD-by-mail and streaming plan.
Although consumers would pay less, Redbox’s inventory is limited to what’s in its kiosks, compared with Netflix’s library of more than 100,000 discs, including more obscure fare. Redbox customers will also have to go in person to pick up a disc, which saves the company mailing costs.
Getting an extensive library of streaming content to rival Netflix’s 20,000-plus titles will be expensive. The rising cost for streaming rights is the main reason that Netflix raised its U.S. prices by as much as 60 percent last year in a move that triggered a customer backlash. At the end of 2011, Netflix had video licensing commitments totaling $3.9 billion worldwide over the next several years.
Verizon will handle the streaming negotiations, Coinstar CEO Paul Davis told analysts in a conference call held late Monday to discuss the company’s fourth-quarter earnings. He declined to answer questions seeking more details about how the joint subscription service might work, citing a desire to keep things under wraps for competitive reasons. The streaming service won’t be available until the final half of this year.
Redbox, whose DVD rental kiosks are located in more than 29,000 stores, has been looking to expand into online streaming for more than a year. Its business so far has revolved around renting DVDs for as little as $1.20 per day. Along the way, Redbox says it has accumulated about 36 million email addresses from DVD and video-game renters — information that could be used to promote the new streaming service.