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Blockbuster to offer ‘on demand’

Associated Press

Blockbuster Inc. will start renting movies and television shows through a new gadget that may give consumers another reason to bypass the struggling video chain’s 7,500 stores.

The system unveiled Tuesday relies on a small box that connects to television sets and stores video after it’s downloaded over high-speed Internet connections.

The player, made by San Jose-based 2Wire Inc., is based on the same concept as storage devices made by Apple Inc. and Vudu Inc. The devices are all meant to provide a bridge between the Internet and TVs.

Netflix Inc., a Blockbuster nemesis, has been trying to make the same leap with a video-streaming service that can be watched on TV sets through a variety of devices, including a $100 box introduced by Roku Inc. six months ago.

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Blockbuster’s latest move into “on-demand” video also pits the Dallas-based firm against instant-gratification services offered by major cable carriers such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc.

Blockbuster shares gained 3 cents, or 3.2%, to close Tuesday at 98 cents while Netflix shares fell 58 cents, or 2.6%, to $21.63.

Although Blockbuster has closed hundreds of stores in recent years, its expansion into on-demand shouldn’t be interpreted as a condemnation of its brick-and-mortar locations, Chairman James Keyes said.

“We think the stores will remain relevant to consumers for quite some time,” he said.

Blockbuster had previously been selling video downloads through Movielink, a service that it bought for $7.7 million last year. But the Movielink option was primarily aimed at consumers who don’t mind watching movies on personal computers or portable gadgets with small screens.

With its latest step, Blockbuster is appealing to the larger audience that prefers watching entertainment on big-screen TVs.

To help get its next downloading box into homes, Blockbuster is selling it as part of a $99 package that includes 25 on-demand rentals.


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