Two Thumbs Down: Redbox Instant Met With Criticism

Published On April 24, 2013 | Tech Business

It seems like no one is stoked about the new Redbox Instant.

In late March, the kiosk-based DVD-rental service that essentially killed Blockbuster with their 99-cent rentals rolled out their online video service to Xbox in an attempt to compete in the same space as streaming giants Netflix and Amazon.

Reviewers gave it a collective “meh” for a variety of reasons, ranging from content (they don’t have any), to problems with the mobile app (it doesn’t always work), to the price (not a real deal there either).

So, let’s break it down. Where did Redbox Instant go wrong with its launch and can the company still fix it?


Redbox Instant isn’t offering any great price cut compared to its competitors. A basic streaming account on Redbox Instant costs $8 a month. It does include four DVD credits for the kiosks, but if you’re only using the streaming service, the price is comparable to Netflix’s $8 per month streaming plan and there is far less content.

Amazon Prime, on the other hand, offers a much bigger library, free shipping and free eBook rentals for $79 a year as part of its Prime membership, which works out to $6.58 per month. Also, not all of the Redbox Instant rentals are available for free streaming. Finding a movie users actually want to watch would cost at least $4.99 just to rent it in standard definition and $5.99 to rent it in HD.

Device Support

The Redbox Instant app does not work on iPhones or iPads that have been jail broken. Users attempting to login to the app from a jail-broken phone or iPad will receive a failure message saying “This device is compromised. Application cannot initialize.” That’s a lot of iOS users who can’t even launch the app.

Redbox also doesn’t yet have an app for the Roku streaming player, which has become another popular alternative to buying a monthly cable plan.  Errors all around on the tech front are not helping Redbox make the splash the company was hoping to make.


Probably the biggest failure for Redbox Instant is the limited content available on the subscription service. The numbers say almost everything that needs to be said here: Redbox has 4,600 titles available for streaming on its new service, none of which are TV shows that are real selling points for competitors Netflix and Amazon.

Netflix has 14,000 titles available and Amazon Prime members can stream more than 16,000 movies and TV shows for free with many more available for purchase. No doubt that over time, Redbox will increase the number of titles offered, but the general reaction has been that most of the titles available under the basic streaming package are B movies at best. More popular titles must be purchased or rented separately due to licensing agreements with its studio partners. Boo!

For many users, the effort it would take to switch to Redbox Instant just doesn’t seem worth it for what the service is offering at this point. It’s possible it could get better with time – updates to the Redbox Instant app and more content might make the price worth it. And if Redbox is able to increase the number of DVD rentals at the kiosks, it could still be a win for the company. But in an already crowded space, it doesn’t look good for this service to be a winner until issues are resolved on the content and technical fronts.

What do you think of the new Redbox Instant?

— By Adrienne Ziegler

Known to her friends and colleagues as “Dree,” Adrienne Ziegler is a self-proclaimed nerd who wants to try everything once. She works for a technology company in Ann Arbor, Michigan and enjoys hiking, running, kayaking, throwing music events and artsy-crafty stuff. 



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