DVD Rental Services Comparison


Thousands of people are signing up to rent movies online every day. NetFlixNetFlix invented the online dvd rental service back in 1999 and is still the leader. But Intelliflix is blazing new trails by offering over 60,000 Movies and Video Game rentals with annual plans starting at half the price of any other dvd rental service.

BlockBuster is now agressively trying to take customers away from NetFlix with lower pricing and by leveraging their 4500 retail stores. With an introductory price of $9.99 for the first month, and $14.99 per month thereafter (NetFlix.com is a couple dollars higher), they also give you printable eCoupons for two FREE in-store movie or game rentals, and other special offers.

I've researched the most important features from BlockBuster, NetFlix and Intelliflix and organized them into the comparison chart below. But which one is best for you?? I plan to delve into that question much more next month, focusing on the key considerations: selection, price and customer satisfaction. Until then, I'll leave you with these personal experiences which are summarized at the bottom of this page under Evaluating online DVD rental services.

DVD Rental News

The race for domination of the DVD rental market has kicked into high gear. BlockBuster is agressively trying to unseat the dominant player, NetFlix.com, and since Wal-Mart threw it's weight behind Netflix [the Wal-Mart DVD Rental business ended on June 17, 2005], it won't be as easy for BlockBuster as they probably thought it would be.

By joining forces with NetFlix, Wal-Mart can bring to bear the thousands of Wal-Mart stores across the country to advertise and promote the NetFlix movie rental service, but BlockBuster also has significant "offline" advantages. In particular, BlockBuster Online sweetens the online dvd rental package by giving subscribers printable coupons every month for their choice of two free in-store rentals of a movie or game (NetFlix does not currently offer game rentals), plus various coupons for other in-store specials such as low-priced used dvd movies.

Meanwhile Intelliflix is breaking all the rules with more choices, more subscription plans plus adult movies and video games.

Side-by-side Comparison of
BlockBuster Online™ DVD Rentals and NetFlix.com

BlockBuster Online DVD Rental
No Late Fees Keep the DVDs
as long as you want
No Late Fees
Keep the DVDs
as long as you want
No Late Fees
Keep the DVDs
as long as you want
No Late Fees
Selections Over 40,000 titles Over 40,000 titles Large selection of
DVD, Video Games
and Adult Titles
Turn-around time 1 Day 1 Day ??
Unlimited DVD Rentals YES YES YES
Delivered to your Mailbox YES YES YES
Free Shipping & Postage Free first-class postage both ways Free first-class postage both ways Free 1st-class both ways
No Return Dates YES YES YES
Distribution Centers 23 across the US.
Will soon be using
their 4,500 stores in coming year
35 across the US Next day service
to over 400 US cities
More than 40,000 Titles YES YES Not Advertised
Free In-Store Coupons YES - Two ecoupons for
FREE in-store movie or game rentals.
Print coupons yourself.
Gift Subscriptions YES YES YES
Comments New SuperPass Program Changes
Special Offers $9.99 for First Month 2-week free trial $8.25/mo for annual pre-paid
$$ Cost $$  
$17.99 - 3 titles out
$29.99 - 5 titles out
$37.49 - 8 titles out
$11.99 4 DVDs a month, 2 titles out
$17.99 - 3 titles out
$29.99 - 5 titles out
$47.99 - 8 titles out
Eight subscription plans offered
$16.95 - 3 titles out
$24.95 - Unlmited game, dvd
and Adult Movies
$3.95 - 5-day pay-per-title
pre-paid annual only $8.25/mo
Sign-up Today
with NO Obligations

If you're into geeky consumer research experiments,
Michael S. Muegel put together this long paper entitled
"An Analysis of Netflix's DVD Allocation System". (opens in new window)

Choosing an Online DVD Rental Service

In 2004 I was a NetFlix subscriber and quite happy until they started throttling me (slowing down how quickly I received new movies). A recent class action suit seems to have brought that tactic out in the open and I presume they'll stop doing it or make the practice explicit in their terms of service. With that out of the way, NetFlix has the largest selection (circa 55,000 titles), competitive pricing, and probably the most sophisticated website, refined over several years or operations. So at this time, they are again my number one choice for general DVD movie rentals. Take advantage of their free two-week trial offer.

June of 2005 I signed up with BlockBuster Online largely because they were three dollars cheaper than NetFlix for the standard 3-out-at-a-time package. The selection of movies was comparable and my DVDs arrived quickly. BlockBuster has raised their prices to match NetFlix pricing now, so that advantage has disappeared. However, BlockBuster sweetens their online rental subscription with 2 free in-store movie rentals plus subscriber-only deals on in-store DVD purchases and most recently, free movie theatre tickets. Thus, for the same price as NetFlix you'll receive in-store goodies from a BlockBuster Online subscription which NetFlix can't match.

Intelliflix however, is the scrappy kid on the block! On many counts, these guys are my new favorite. The 3-out pricing is a buck cheaper than the other two, BUT.... they also offer video game rentals, adult movie rentals and flexibility NetFlix and Blockbuster haven't matched. With or without a subscription plan, you can always rent any movie or game on a pay-as-you-go plan (free shipping, a week to watch it and return in pre-paid mailer). But perhaps the thing which sets Intelliflix apart from the big fish in the pond is the pre-paid annual membership which gives you unlimited access to all their products for just $8.25 per month during the 12 months of your membership (50% cheaper than NetFlix or BlockBuster Online).

Bottom Line: To get your favorite films plus video games and/or adult movies, OR to save the most money, choose Intelliflix. If you think you'll take advantage of the two free in-store movie rentals at your local BlockBuster store, try their online rental service. If none of that matters much to you, that leaves NetFlix as the logical choice for their massive selection and excellent website for finding films to rent and managing selections in your rental queue.