Dish Buys Blockbuster for $320 Million. Why?

Dish has the brand on life-support. Fast Company offers a few ideas for what to do with the struggling retailer.

Blockbuster lovers everywhere (that's right, both of you) rejoice! Dish Network Corp. today announced that it won an auction for the struggling movie-rental chain, with a $320 million bid. Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September, and went on the block in a marathon auction yesterday that ended at 1:25 A.M. in the wee hours this morning, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, someone was going to win that auction. But the fate of Blockbuster truly hung in the balance last night, because some of the bidders probably had plans to simply liquidate the company. Dish has expressed a desire to keep Blockbuster as a "going concern"—that is, to not liquidate it, yet.

What does Blockbuster, whose peak of 9,100 stores in 2004 have since dwindled to about 2,000, have to offer Dish Network, a satellite TV service? A few things. Said Tom Cullen of Dish, "With its more than 1,700 store locations, a highly recognizable brand and multiple methods of delivery, Blockbuster will complement our existing video offerings while presenting cross-marketing and service-extension opportunities for Dish Network." There are various ways to parse this statement, and different analysts are offering different takes. Perhaps Blockbuster's licensing deals with studios are of interest to Dish; perhaps Dish is particularly interested in having a brick-and-mortar presence to promote its service; and so on.

We're in an interesting period, though, in that we know Blockbuster will continue to live on in name, and in some retail presence—yet we don't know exactly what it will be selling. Fast Company therefore has a few suggestions for how Dish might manage its going, and perhaps ongoing, concern...

1. Turn Blockbuster's retail locations into living museums to businesses that failed to innovate.

Something like Colonial Williamsburg (see above), only with 2,000 locations across the country (to really drive home the point), Dish could employee historical re-enacters to re-create the roles of Blockbuster staff people. They would stand behind the counter, stock shelves, and recommend movies, just like Blockbuster employees of yore. Visitors could pay a few dollars for souvenir empty DVD cases.

2. Sell candy. Only candy.

Concession stand sales remain a mainstay of the theater-going business. Blockbuster was already pretty good at selling candy at exorbitant rates. People like candy, and still prefer candy stores to receiving candy in red envelopes.

3. Stage live performances of great films in Blockbuster stores.

Turn each city's Blockbuster into a kitschy destination to see a play version of Star Wars or Jaws. Capture the ironic hipster market, and garner praise in little sidebars of Lonely Planet guide books.

4. Sell literal block-busters.

We're not sure what the utility of them would be, but they're bound to be more useful and competitive than what Blockbuster currently offers. Kindergarteners tired of playing with the same old blocks could break them apart. Such technology might eventually find industrial applications among quarrymen and miners.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Email David Zax, the author of this post.

[Images: Flickr user tobyotter]

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