I remember working in Wilkinsons in Melton Mowbray and on my break wondering over the road to Blockbuster video for some chocolates. I remember hiring Apollo 13 and Braveheart on VHS in 1995 (maybe 96 – it’s hazy!) from the very same Blockbuster store and quite a bit later (plus many movies later) in 2001 hiring my first Playstation 2 game.
Blockbuster is a fantastic brand – from it’s very simple ticket stub logo to it’s global coverage of its stores and online websites. It may not have been the first company to offer movie rental, but it was certainly the first chain to offer it on such a scale. The Blockbuster concept of a “great night in” which seems to have been lifted shamelessly by Dominoes, altered the way we enjoyed our time infront of the TV at night. Blockbuster cunningly offered up popcorn, chocolate and sweets alongside movie rentals so everything you needed was there in one place.
The first Blockbuster store in the UK opened in March 1989 (Walworth Road, London) and rapidly expanded to it’s 650 stores and over 5,000 staff it currently has in the UK today.
Recently though, the global presence of Blockbusters has suffered, the TV campaigns have halted and stores have closed down. So what went so badly wrong, that has led Blockbuster to recently announce they are working towards bankruptcy?
In my opinion, one word sums up what went wrong for Blockbuster, Innovation.
Blockbuster probably didn’t realise it, but they operated in an area of technology. Or at least an area which has been affected so dramatically recently with the introduction of DVD, blue-Ray, games consoles and more importantly the Internet.
Blockbuster have always reacted to the market and since their launch have never ventured into markets until they are mature.
The killer nail has been the likes of LoveFilm and NetFlix, which have revolutionised the way in which we consume film. Sky Box Office was bad enough for blockbuster, but at least they could be rest-assured they would have more recent films on offer.
Blockbuster.co.uk was launched in 1996! So they were very quick to adopt online. They even offered online rentals as early as 2002, but the one thing they have not been able to master is streaming video. If they had took a risk and been the first to offer streaming, even before home broadband was really good enough for it, with the strength of their brand they would have led in a market that will generate millions in the uk alone.
Just think of the advertising revenue online video streaming will generate once it is commonplace. Blockbuster could have had a slice of that and I would be writing a very different blog.
In the UK all is not lost for Blockbuster. It is a separate company to the US Blockbuster and is not yet staring down the barrel of bankruptcy. It is however, up for sale for a mere £50m!
Problem is, a large portion of the £50m will get you the 650 stores – which to survive is the exact thing Blockbuster don’t want to retain. They want to build on the brand, offer online streaming of movies and pioneer in the integration of targeted advertising online.
To compete with the likes of Netflix is now going to be an uphill battle for the UK Blockbuster, but it’s by no means an impossible battle.
I for one hope it’s something someone somewhere takes on. It will be a real shame if the Blockbuster brand is sent to the great big branding bin in the sky.