Dish Network takes aim at Netflix with Blockbuster Movie Pass

Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH), looking to firmly step into the streaming media space, on Saturday will roll out what it hopes will be a viable alternative to Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), unveiling Blockbuster Movie Pass to its subscribers.

Subscribers will be offered about 4,000 movies and "hundreds" of on-demand TV shows for delivery to a computer and 3,000 available for TV screens for $10 a month. Subscribers also will have access to older titles on some Dish movie channels (think EPIX, MGM and the Sony Movie Channel). The deal includes DVDs and games by mail and unlimited DVDs and games from brick and mortar Blockbuster stores, of which only 1,500 remain, down from a peak of 9,100 in 2004. Dish offered no timeline for extending the offer to non-customers.

The streaming choices make up a pretty thin effort compared to Netflix or even Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), and Movie Pass currently isn't available on mobile devices, something Dish said will be addressed by year's end.

Subscribers will have multiple levels of service to chose from; in addition to the basic $10 deal, subscribers can get two or three discs by mail for $15 and $20 respectively.

Customers who sign up for the satellite provider's America's Top 200 programming package for $39.99 a month (or higher) will get a free year of Blockbuster Movie Pass.

Dish CEO Joe Clayton said plans for the new product were on the drawing board before Netflix angered customers by raising prices and separating its DVD-by-mail business from its streaming business, a development he said the service provider was happy to see.

"No amount of planning can replace good luck," Clayton said. "We will take all the luck we can get."

The new offering appears to be a nice value-added bump for Dish subscribers, but analysts questioned its broader appeal.

"We don't believe the service poses a compelling alternative to broadly compete with Netflix at this point," J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth wrote in a note to customers.

Dish bought Blockbuster's assets in a bankruptcy auction five months ago after the retailer lost its panache with customers who turned instead to services like Netflix, which currently has some 24 million subscribers.

For more:
- see this AP story

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