Enron and Blockbuster Launch Entertainment On-Demand Service

It has repeatedly been predicted that video rental stores are heading for the graveyard, most recently with the advent of small satellite services and online rental competitors such as Netflix. The latest foe that, pundits claim, is likely to deal the fatal blow to rental stores is video-on-demand over high-speed networks.

In a classic case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," Blockbuster Entertainment and Enron Broadband Services announced last week that they have begun delivering movies via the Blockbuster Entertainment On-Demand service over Enron's broadband network in Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Portland, OR. Both companies say that the initial launch fulfills the goal "to deliver the entertainment on-demand service to consumers' televisions by the end of this year."

Enron reports that the broadband distribution companies providing "last mile" high-speed connectivity to consumers' homes for the current roll-out are ReFlex Communications (Seattle and Portland) and SwitchPoint Networks (Salt Lake City). In addition, Blockbuster, Enron, and Verizon say they are currently conducting technical trials in New York City. Blockbuster and Enron also say they have signed an agreement with FiberRide to deliver the entertainment service in select California markets in the future.

Blockbuster New Media's Mark Gilman states that "as this market launch demonstrates, we have the infrastructure in place, through our alliance with Enron and our other partners to deliver a quality entertainment on-demand service. Combine this alliance with the Blockbuster brand, our marketing ability, and our millions of existing, entertainment-hungry customers, and we believe that we are clearly positioned to accelerate the roll-out of this service as content providers release more films for broadband use."

The companies say that Enron is delivering Blockbuster Entertainment over its global broadband network, providing bandwidth on demand, and managing content and storage. "Consumers are able to start, stop, pause, rewind, and view movies on demand with television quality."

Enron's Ken Rice adds that "customers have been extremely receptive to our offering, and the solution we have created will serve as the basis for delivering a wide range of valuable content globally."