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The Dish on Blockbuster Online Under Dish Network

When Blockbuster first got into the DVD-by-mail business in 2004, the service was largely a joke for the first several months. Blockbuster Online would ship incorrect DVDs, takes days to ship DVDs, etc. Blockbuster was having a hard time getting their online business going, and it was obvious.

Blockbuster Online improved in 2005 and eventually was a pretty good value. The Blockbuster Online service continued to be a pretty good value through most of 2006 and 2007. The real problems did not begin until late-2007 when Blockbuster began throttling the flow of DVDs to customers using a wide, ever-changing array of delay tactics.

Through much of 2008, 2009, and 2010, Blockbuster engaged in all sorts of bizarre and unsavory behavior such as rarely shipping DVDs on certain days, taking days to process DVDs, making subscribers stack the tops of their queues with "Available" DVDs, failing to register in-store returns, etc. In short, Blockbuster Online was back to being a joke--only this time, the joke wasn't funny. The service was just awful, absolutely awful. It was a horrible value, a major headache for consumers, and it was probably one of the main reasons Blockbuster wound up finally going bankrupt in 2010. Blockbuster not only deserved to go bankrupt, the company was out-of-control, and it needed to go bankrupt.

In April 2011, Dish Network bought Blockbuster at auction, and that was when things began to turn around a little. Here we are a few months later, and there is little to no evidence of Blockbuster Online blatantly throttling customers. Yes, Blockbuster Online has some substantial problems with availability, but the throttling is minimal or non-existent. For now, it appears Blockbuster Online is basically shipping DVDs when they should and not playing a lot of obvious, sleazy games with customers. This is most likely because Dish Network cannot afford to mistreat whatever few Blockbuster subscribers are left. In order to remain in the DVD rental business, Dish Network has probably decided to do nothing to trigger more customer defections from what is already a dangerously weak customer base.

Now, Blockbuster Online deserves no praise for shipping DVDs to subscribers as agreed. Blockbuster is just doing what they should have been doing all along. Since, however, Blockbuster Underground has been intensely critical of Blockbuster for at least a few years now, it is fair to make it clear that Blockbuster's DVD-by-mail service has improved remarkably since Dish Network took the reins of that deeply troubled company.

Please do not read this article as an endorsement of Blockbuster or any of its services. The Blockbuster name has been severely--perhaps permanently--tarnished by years and years of bad customer service in the stores and online. Millions of people hate the Blockbuster brand, and they have every right to do so. It will take years to rebuild trust among millions of alienated consumers.

Maybe the new Blockbuster is going to be a good company under Dish Network, but it is also possible Blockbuster could suddenly revert to its old ways. Only time will tell. If Blockbuster starts messing around again and begins taking advantage of customers, Blockbuster Underground will go right back to exposing every single wrong thing Blockbuster does. For now, on Blockbuster Underground, Dish Network is going to get a fair chance to prove they can and will deliver on what they promise to Blockbuster customers. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

I've been a customer since the beginning of Blockbuster online. I've gone through all of the frustrations mentioned in your column. It used to be a great value when there were actual brick and mortar stores nearby to exchange the movies. As of Dec. 2011 they do throttle, but they obviously call it something else now.

Editor said...

Dear Anonymous,

Please give some specific examples of the throttling you mentioned. If possible, please establish a pattern.

Anonymous said...

I started with blockbuster movie pass and I also have netflix. With Blockbuster every new release I have tried to place into my queue says "long wait". Even many of the older movies that have been out some time say the same thing. A majority of my queue is full of "Long wait" titles.

The movies I am able to find take at least 2 days to arrive even thoe I live near a shipping location. Then when I send the movies back it takes up to a week to clear my queue, I've even had to clear it manually clicking "shipping problem" but that only works once.

The online streaming is horrible. Most of the movies they actually link you to were it is at HULU or other online streaming locations, so I have to sit through commercials.

Saying that blockbuster has done well lately makes me laugh. I'd hate to see how bad they were when they were at their worst.

Editor said...

Dear Anonymous from 1/23/2012 6:58 AM,

Yes, every problem you mentioned is completely legitimate. Sadly, Blockbuster was much, much worse a couple of years ago. If you think things are bad at Blockbuster now, you would have lost your mind during the last few years before Blockbuster went bankrupt. Blockbuster was excruciatingly bad. It is no wonder that company imploded. Blockbuster has a long way to go to fully recover from many years of horrendous mismanagement.

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