Verizon (s vz) and Redbox (s cstr) are creating a joint venture to provide movies on demand using the web as well as Redbox’s physical DVD rental kiosks around the country. The deal is seen as a blow against Netflix (s nflx), which offers a DVD-by-mail and a streaming service, but it’s also a chance for Verizon to make money from streaming content and show off how awesome its fiber network is.
Details around the deal are limited, but here is what we know.
- Verizon will own 65 percent of the joint venture while Coinstar, Redbox’s parent company, will own 35 percent.
- The service will offer something Netflix currently doesn’t — a download option, which makes it more competitive with Amazon’s (s amzn) video offerings.
- The offering will be available nationwide, not merely to Verizon customers.
- Using Redbox helps the joint venture get access to new releases as content companies are trying to add more “windows” to the movie release process. Windowing is what content companies use to spread out the time between a movie released in theaters, when it hits rentals stores and when it makes its way to other services such as premium TV channels. The general thinking is this increases profits for each movie, but opinion is divided on that, and consumers hate it.
- Verizon is counting on its existing relationship as a pay TV provider to get more content to the joint venture.
- Whatever the end product looks like, it will launch in the second half of this year.
Given these facts, as scant as they are, it’s easy to see the threat to Netflix, as people could view the two offerings as fairly interchangeable as long as the pricing is competitive and the content is relatively equal. But without knowing about pricing or the content, the deal still has the potential to be a win for Verizon, given video is huge bandwidth suck on wireline and wireless networks. Netflix traffic was estimated to take up 20 percent of U.S. broadband traffic during peak hours according to Sandvine in the fall of 2010.
For Verizon, a streaming joint venture has three benefits. One, if it makes money from the service, that’s an additional revenue stream as well as a way to capture some value from its customers who cut the cord. Two, if the service can really deliver a video product that consumers love and will use, it will help drive traffic across Verizon’s networks. Customers in the FiOS areas will have a reason to sign up for the service if they haven’t already, while the joint venture will help drive traffic to mobile devices and other areas of the country. Verizon has a business selling bandwidth on 100 gigabit per second backbone pipes as well as leasing its fiber to cell phone providers to use as mobile backhaul.
Finally the joint venture gives Verizon a seat at the table with content companies as the industry tries to find new economic models based on the reality of an IP infrastructure that can deliver any content to anyone, anywhere. Sure, content companies are fighting the future with windowing and complicated rights agreements, while ISPs are trying to protect their business with broadband caps, but the future is coming, and Verizon is trying to get in on the ground floor rather than watch it pass it by.