The last remaining successful physical media rental purveyor in the US, Redbox, has started offering discounted digital downloads of Disney films, in the absence of a formal content partnership with the House of Mouse.
Redbox typically sources its DVDs and Blu-ray discs from third-party sellers, which is a model that has landed it in court more than once. In the case of Disney, Redbox has the studio’s consent to rent its content in this way.
However, this week, lower-cost digital codes began appearing on the Redbox website, which allow consumers to download the content for purchase. In many cases the prices are more than half off other outlets. The animated hit Moana, for example, retails at $19.99 at most outlets; on Redbox it’s available for $7.99.
“While we don’t disclose the source, we’re pleased to sell these original digital movie code inserts to our customers at the great value they expect from Redbox,” Kate Brennan, head of communications for Redbox, told Deadline.
The news comes as Disney continues to beef up its Movies Anywhere service, which also allows film downloads. Disney recently added films from four other major studios: Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros and Universal Pictures. The addition of the other studios greatly broadens the value of Movies Anywhere as an outlet and firmly makes it a competitor to Redbox and other electronic sell-through (EST) purveyors, like Apple’s iTunes.
It’s likely that any EST wars in the US arising from this state of affairs will be minimal, however, given the size of what’s up for grabs. Digital Entertainment Group in its annual report Business found that at the end of 2016, EST sales in the key fourth quarter of the year were flat (a meagre 0.26% rise year-on-year compared with Q4 2015), and amounted to $552.47 million. Video on demand via pay-TV providers is a much more lucrative channel for programmers, being three times the size of EST.