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You’ve Got A (Movie) Mail!

Newsday reports that Blockbuster Inc. has launched its online movie rental service, which allows subscribers unlimited rentals, three DVDs at a time, from the company’s Web site for a flat monthly fee. The movies are to be delivered via the U.S. Postal Service and include return envelopes. Shipping charges are included in the flat fee.

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Netflix, anyone? Will Blockbuster unseat one of the brands we love just as cable companies’ DVR offerings are competing with Tivo?

Blockbuster moved online as the company faces slowing demand for its in-store rental service, Newsday reports, and late last month, the company posted a 24 percent decline in second-quarter earnings.

Just as you can order books from Barnes & Noble.com instead of walking to a local bookstore, Blockbuster’s online program gives movie-viewers a choice. But what’s more interesting is to see how the digital media is going to affect movie rental shops.

It’s clear that Blockbuster’s online move has nothing to do with digitalization: Movies are still in DVD form; they are still played in DVD players. The Internet has just changed the distribution — instead of walking to a Blockbuster store and carrying disks home, you just click the mouse, and the UPS takes care of everything.

But what happens when more people turn to digital media, like movies on demand streamed through cable? You record, replay, go backward, forward, stop and pick another oneIn our wildest dreams, DVDs are irrelevant; players are replaced with PCs or TV/PCs; movie theaters and rental shops become things of the past. As we look around the street corner: Where’s Blockbuster?

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