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When I first wrote about my new Google Chromecast I mentioned that I'd bought The Newsroom Season 2 from Blinkbox. It cost me £16.99, so £9.76 less than Amazon on DVD so seems like a bargain however I had concerns. As did Beth.

The first that was "bought" in this context means I'm licensed to play it as often as I like on up to five devices. I discovered later that this isn't as bad as it first appears: you can swap three of your five devices for new ones every ninety days.

The more interesting question turns out to be what happens if Blinkbox disappears. On their "About" page they say:

Who are we?

The best online movie service around

blinkbox is the UK's leading on-demand movie streaming service. In fact, according to The Gadget Show, we're the 'Best UK movie streaming service' around.

Part of Tesco

Founded in 2006, blinkbox is now a proud part of Tesco, which means we're here for the long run.

That last sentence turns out to be an interesting statement in the light of the latest news for Tesco's incoming boss Dave Lewis that Standard & Poor's cut of the supermarket's credit rating in the wake of last month's profit warning had sent its shares down to a new 10-year low.

Articles in both the i newspaper and The Guardian suggest Lewis may now be looking to ditch Blinkbox. In The Guardian Zoe Wood wrote:

Earlier this week HSBC analyst Dave McCarthy warned Lewis was taking on the "biggest turnaround project in British retail history" with "drastic action" required to reverse its declining fortunes. "We expect Tesco to cut UK profits, dividends and capex by circa 50%," he predicted of Lewis's turnaround plan. "These cuts look extreme but we suspect Tesco is in worse shape than first appears." He also predicted Lewis could sell off peripheral activities such as movie streaming service BlinkBox and restaurant chain Giraffe as it refocuses on being a "grocer to the mass market".

So we live in interesting times. I scratched about on the Blinkbox web site searching for any trace of the real terms and conditions of my contract with them but found nothing. Presumably Tesco would aim to sell Blinkbox as a going concern so any purchaser would be expected to honour the deals with existing customers but it did make me stop and think about the whole business model.

Essentially I've "bought" the right to stream that content forever, for reasonably large values of "forever" and they get no more money out of me. I can't help but wonder if this is really sustainable in the long term, for Blinkbox or for any other streaming service.

I think, like with CDs, I'll stick to buying DVDs when I want to buy video content. You can't beat physical media, even if all you do with it is immediately rip it.

Tags: films, internet Written 30/08/14

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