If Video killed the Radio Star, is Box Office doing the same with DVD rentals?
Up until the year 2000 videos were easily accessible for purchase at supermarkets, specialty stores and music stores alike. Even though the more expensive DVD’s were also available at the time, people were stocking up on old time favorites in the form of VCR tapes. Video rental shops also started replacing the majority of their stock with DVD formatted movies and most of their videos went on sale for ridiculously low prices.
In addition to the enhanced quality of visuals and sound on DVD formats came the quick release of movies on this format, within mere weeks from being released on the big screens. Video shops were stocking up on everyone’s wish lists and with combos such as two DVD’s, coke and microwave popcorn, people were staying home on weekends with a quick stop at the movie rental shop.
Just under two years ago, South Africa’s DSTV launched Box Office where any subscriber to the Premium, Extra and Compact bouquets, with a compatible PVR decoder, was able to sign up for this additional service and “rent” movies. Their payment options were convenient and easy to follow. Whether users topped up their accounts with credit cards or initiated debit orders.
There are a number of factors to consider when comparing the “online” movie rental to the traditional shop rental. Firstly the price; Box Office charges R27 per movie. These are new releases and are stored on the PVR decoder for a period of 48 hours. There is no limit to the amount of times the movie is watched in the 48 hours.
Video stores charge between R18 and R22 for newly released DVD’s. One can usually keep them for up to 24 hours before they are returned. The major video store chains have accounts services where people can rent and settle the account later. They also have the most updated new releases in their shops according to the international film releases once it has been shown in the cinema.
In the true spirit of investigative journalism I called up a number of video stores to ask their opinion on how Box Office was affecting their sales. One manager felt there was no decline in their regular customer visits and rentals. Another felt that he definitely noticed a drop in day time visits during weekdays. That may have been due to a busy daily customer visit rate for December when many people were home so I wasn’t convinced that his reason justified the drop in day time visits.
Relooking at the factors of price and quality of service, I would have to say that both store and online options were acceptable. The extra R6 is justified by the period which a person has access to the movie on Box Office. Furthermore, so far the minority of South Africans have upgraded to the new age decoders that allow them to access the Box Office services. So Video may have killed the Radio star, but Box Office hasn’t stepped over the line just yet.
by Mariska Knoesen
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