Update: Harry McCracken has since informed me that he was not offered the same deal as Davis. Blockbuster’s Twitter feed did contact him, but to ask him if he needed someone to comment on the Netflix announcement and to offer him subscription codes for his readers.
For the better part of the day, I’ve been watching events unfold as the previously stoic Blockbuster, the onetime king of the movie and game rental industry, has been flailing desperately in attempts to counteract Netflix’s latest Qwikster announcement.
When Netflix announced that they would be splitting their DVD-by-mail and streaming video services into two separate brands – Netflix for their streaming branch and the awkwardly named Qwikster for DVD rentals with the option to pay extra for a third tier allowing for video games by mail – the brick and mortar boys at Blockbuster remained oddly quiet about their leading rival’s drastic changes.
The Qwikster announcement wasn’t exactly met with optimism by all, as many customers weren’t enthused by the prospect of managing two separate accounts and queues. This, coupled with the recent price hike earlier this year has dangled Netflix over perhaps its most precarious level public of public opinion since it launched.
We were left to draw our own conclusions about how Blockbuster might be planning to react; perhaps Blockbuster, which has been shutting down more and more locations in the past couple of years (thanks in no small part to the now nearly ubiquitous Netflix) simply didn’t want to draw any more comparisons to their flailing business model. Possibly they planned on continuing to allow video game rental service GameFly to appear to be the one having its milkshake drank. Then again, it was possible that they were simply trying to play things cool, perhaps while rolling up their sleeves and preparing something that would dazzle us all in the wake of Netflix/Qwikster’s newfound ill will.
As it turns out, they had something a bit more insidious in mind.
Like an entertainment-based Lex Luthor plotting in his Hall of Doom, Blockbuster was actually preparing attempts at video service bribery.
As tweeted by the reliably stalwart Ryan Davis of GiantBomb.com, @taswell on Twitter, Blockbuster contacted him with a deal whereby if he announced that he was leaving Netflix in favor of Blockbuster Total Access, their own DVD-by-mail selection program, that they would stipend him with a free 1-year subscription to said service. Ryan Davis immediately tweeted the offer, in its actual wording, which appears to have been sent to him via a direct message from Blockbuster’s main Twitter account.
Following this entirely questionable practice, Blockbuster has announced, once again via Twitter, a new contest in which anyone that tweets their intention to leave Netflix and why, in favor of Blockbuster Total Access, with the hash-tag “#GoodbyeNetflix” will be entered for a chance to be selected as one of three winners to receive the same free 1-year subscription offered to Davis.
Upon further review of Blockbuster’s Twitter feed, it is plain to see that Ryan Davis likely wasn’t the only popular internet personality to receive their offer. Blockbuster’s tweets marred by a suspicious trend of requesting follow-backs similar to the one first sent to Davis. For those that don’t know, two Twitter users must be following each others’ feeds in order for one of the users to send private, direct messages to the other.
One wonders why they thought that writers and columnists such as Hunch.com’s Chris Dixon or Time.com columnist Harry McCracken (both of whom were also sent messages similar to Davis’) as well as many others, men and women whose stock and trade is reporting on the events they deem newsworthy, would be the best figures to attempt to recruit in their effort to help spread word of their campaign. Blockbuster would essentially be asking them to trade on their popularity and public impartiality for a free year of movie rentals. It doesn’t exactly seem like a cozy risk-reward scenario.
I would like to imagine that Davis’ response, pointing out the disgustingness of the situation, would be the most common response.
Ultimately we’ll see how this pans out for Blockbuster, but personally I think that they’ve just lost themselves a lot of the goodwill that was otherwise freely gained, thanks to the internet backlash towards the Netflix/Qwikster split.
Have you been contacted by Blockbuster about this announcement? Do you plan on entering Blockbuster’s Twitter contest? How do you feel about the entire situation? Feel free to let us know in the comments below or contact me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to remain anonymous.