Dish Unveils Blockbuster Movie Pass

What a letdown. Dish Network does the dance of the seven veils as it hints that it will take on Netflix, and the big news today is that it will re-brand Blockbuster’s existing streaming and mail-order DVD rental service — and offer it to Dish Network customers willing to pay an extra $10 a month? There’s no way around it: With Blockbuster Movie Pass, Dish just blew a golden opportunity to seize the momentum from Netflix, which is still reeling from the consumer backlash to its 60% price hike for subscribers who want to continue to stream movies and rent DVDs by mail. Blockbuster Movie Pass can stream 3,000 movies to TV sets, and 4,000 to PCs; that’s 25% or less of what Netflix offers.

Even Dish doesn’t try to sell this as an important new service. The press release calls Blockbuster Movie Pass “the most comprehensive TV entertainment programming package ever delivered by a multichannel pay TV provider” and a “pay TV industry first.” Who cares? Blockbuster Movie Pass is simply a come-on to subscribe to Dish. That’s understandable for a company that lost 135,000 customers in the second quarter, bringing its total to 14.1M. Investors seem to be pleased that the initiative doesn’t come with a big price tag; Dish shares are up 4.9% this afternoon. But they should enjoy the gains while they can. If this is the best Dish can do, then the company is in for a lot of hurt as Amazon, Apple, Google, Walmart and even Netflix figure out that consumers want to see a slick service, not just a cagey marketing campaign.