Update: Indeed, Dish Networks and Blockbuster announced a new Netflix-like offering. For now, $10-a-month on top of your Dish bill (an introductory special) buys access to over 100,000 movies and TV shows as well as 3,000 video games by mail; 3,000 on-demand movies for your TV; 4,000 streaming movies for your computer and 20 premium movie channels on Dish. The big catch is that the service is only available to Dish Subscribers, so it's more of an added value proposition than a standalone business. The new program is called Blockbuster Movie Pass and starts October 1.
Original Post: On a 1 p.m. press conference on Friday afternoon, Dish Networks is expected to announce a new Blockbuster-branded streaming video service to compete with Netflix. This shouldn't come as a big surprise. Dish bought Blockbuster out of bankruptcy back in April and has undoubtedly been waiting for the right time to bring the brick-and-mortar brand back into the fray. With Netflix flailing in its efforts to quell a customer rebellion and spin off its DVD-by-mail business into the confusingly rebranded Qwikster service, that time is definitely now. Though the details about how exactly a Dish/Blockbuster service will work remain blurry, everyone has their own speculative ideas about how to beat Netflix while its down.
"The obvious play would be to offer more titles for the same $8 a month that Netflix charges or less. But that isn't a given," says Peter Kafka at AllThingsD, pointing out that Netflix's 20,000-strong library of streaming movies is hard to beat and "the Hollywood studios that Dish is counting on to help it battle Netflix aren't going to be that psyched about another $8 all-you-can-eat plan." However, Dish could also go big. "If the company were to control Hulu on top of its Blockbuster DVD-and-streaming plans and Dish at-home service, it would easily become an entertainment powerhouse in its own right," Sean Ludwig at MediaBeat suggests. And if adding another big streaming site into the fray sounds like it would be hard to navigate--Amazon is also clipping at Netflix's heels--that's exactly what studios want. "That's how Hollywood does business," media consultant Will Richmond told Julianne Pepitone at CNN Money. "It's in their interest for things to remain confusing, and that's how it will be for a long time to come."
Inevitably, the extent to which Dish spars with Netflix over market share could be problematic for consumers. Pepitone reports, "If Netflix and its rivals get into bidding wars, the price of that content will keep climbing higher." And if the confusion of who has the better streaming service with the cheaper price becomes too difficult to figure out, you can always buy the DVD.