Finally, Blockbuster's Internet set-top box unveiled

We knew it was coming. First, video rental chain Blockbuster purchased the movie download service MovieLink — originally a joint venture between Hollywood studios Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. and MGM — and then the company, through a series of leaks to the press, began hinting at related plans to release a set-top box. A few denials later, followed by an outright confirmation, and today the company best known for its bricks and mortar stores finally unveiled the hardware itself.

Here’s what we know about the new Blockbuster Internet set-top box and accompanying On Demand service:

  • The box isn’t made by Blockbuster or even really branded as such (aside from the User Interface – see screen shots below). Instead, the device, dubbed the MediaPoint digital media player, is made by San Jose-based 2Wire.
  • It will retail for $99, although there is a special launch offer whereby the first 25 movie rentals are included in the price, a model that I recently suggested competitor Vudu should adopt.
  • Rentals start from $1.99 but for most movies will be priced at $3.99.
  • Each rental downloaded has a 30 day viewing window, reduced to 24 hours once you hit play.
  • The MediaPoint player supports both WiFi and Ethernet, has 8GB of storage (enough for around 5 movies), and features both composite and HDMI connections.
  • The MediaPoint hardware is capable of displaying HD content, though most of Blockbuster’s initial On Demand offering, around 2,000 titles, will be Standard Definition.

Here’s what we don’t yet know for sure:

  • How long the launch offer will last — without the 25 movie rental credit, the $99 box feels a lot less like an impulse buy and will have a much harder time competing in a crowded space that includes the Apple TV, Sony PS3, Netflix, Vudu and Microsoft XBox 360. Not to mention telcos with their own on-demand services.
  • In NewTeeVee’s previous coverage of 2Wire’s MediaPoint offering, there’s mention of additional functionality, including support for other Internet video and the ability to stream content from a PC — photos, music and video — on the same home network via UPnP and DLNA support (see our guide to all things DLNA). However, the user manual for the Blockbuster-branded version of the player, makes no reference to such functionality.
  • Is the $1.99 starting point for rentals, TV shows only?

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last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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