Family Video challenges Netflix

2011-09-29T21:00:00Z 2011-10-10T02:51:09Z Family Video challenges NetflixBy JIM VOREL Herald-Review.com
September 29, 2011 9:00 pm  • 

...to a steel cage grudge match!

Or at least that's what it feels like, driving down US-51 N. and seeing the sign out in front of the Water St. location: "Cancel Netflix and get $5 in free rentals." Curious about this marketing ploy, I went inside to inquire and learned that the $5 isn't even the only part of the promotion-those who are able to present an email or letter from Netflix confirming their cancellation also get a month of unlimited half-priced rentals, the same promotion that Family Video offers to its brand new members, even if the Netflix-canceller already is a returning customer. Oh, and this isn't just limited to Decatur, it also extends to every one of the 731 Family Video locations nationwide. It's the first thing they say when you call: "Welcome to Family Video, where if you cancel Netflix you can get..."

The first knee-jerk reaction I had was "Wow, that's kind of a petty shot in an attempt to capitalize on a company currently suffering through some negative PR." However, the more I think about it, the more I think it just makes good business sense. Lots of people are already pissed off at Netflix. Why not give those people an incentive to try out the traditional video store once again? Especially when that video store is a Family Video, which is honestly head and shoulders above former competitors like Blockbuster in terms of selection and especially price.

A side note: If you've never been to a Family Video before, you might scoff at the $5 rental credit. At a Blockbuster, for instance, that might not have even gotten you a new release rental. At Family Video, however, that will definitely get you a couple movies. Some of the older movies are typically even offered at two for $1! TWO FOR A DOLLAR. Add in the "half price for a month" side of the promotion, and you're getting two movies for an absurd .50 cents. Voila-your $5 credit is now worth ten free rentals.

Family Video management-types clearly see this as a time to profit. They told me as much when I called to talk about the promotion.

"Family video has always honored our competitors' coupons and always matched and honored any other offers," said regional director Carrie Jensen. "Because Netflix has made some bad marketing decisions to anger their customers, this is the time for us to make our move. Their poor customer service is our gain. They've been very anti-customer, and this is our chance to show off the real customer service that is a part of our business plan in all our physical locations."

There are trade-offs, of course, the most obvious being that despite a nationwide network of stores, Family Video still can't match Netflix' overall selection. I went into a Family Video here in Decatur just the other day, for instance, and was unable to find a movie in their database that Netflix is streaming as we speak. But Jensen says that not only will people "absolutely" return, they'll flock to Family Videos in droves in order to enjoy one of the last remaining sources for inexpensive movie rentals.

"When it comes to people's finances, they're willing to try the store again to save money," she said. "There's no other option to rent movies this cheaply, coupled with the size of our selection."

It's a strange feeling, to think of people going back to video stores. These are the establishments that services like Netflix so recently DROVE OUT OF BUSINESS. It makes one wonder, if Blockbuster had survived longer, would it be benefiting from this backlash now? Are we collectively making a technological step back, in the name of thriftiness?

The humor hasn't been lost on other people. In today's edition of one of my favorite movie-centric webcomics, "Multiplex," the exact same joke is being made-where to get movies? Are we really going back to video stores?

...really?

Well, I suppose if the price is right...yes?

What do you think, sirs? Cheap shot on a downed opponent, brilliant marketing move, or desperate act by an outdated mode of distribution? How much does the price mean to you in getting the media you want to see?

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