Review: Redbox Instant & why I canceled my trial

A few weeks ago, I was excited to receive the “You’re In” email from Redbox for their new Redbox Instant streaming service.  I was excited to see a competitor to Amazon and Netflix for lots of new movies.  But today, I closed my account.  I’m still optimistic to revisit Redbox Instant in the future, even though I closed it.  In the end, convenience won out of some of the Redbox service’s very compelling features.

An Enticing Bundle…

One of the things that I found really enticing about Redbox Instant is the way that Redbox is bundling the streaming service along with video rentals at the kiosk.  My family loves Redbox from the kiosk and we generally get one or two movies a month.  So, a combination streaming subscription with kiosk credits from the ‘box’ is a really nice proposition.

The price of the standard Redbox Instant service is in line with Netflix and Hulu – $8 a month.  It makes it a no-brainer to replace one or the other in your monthly budget – and that’s a strong play from Redbox, considering it bundles 4 DVD rentals with the subscription.

Redbox Instant comes with a variety of devices compatible to view the content – a native iOS apps, Android apps and you can use your Windows or Mac computer to stream.  The Redbox Help site also shows some Samsung Blu-ray players and TV sets.

The service includes parental controls which will help to manage your kids viewing.  Netflix parental controls is a big let down since its an all-or-nothing setting where you block the parents as well as the kids from content with higher ratings, but sadly, it seems that Redbox Instant is in the same boat.  Perhaps future apps can set this on a per-user basis, but for now, its all-or-nothing like Netflix.  That a big let-down for a parent who doesn’t want my child wondering into Showtime programming and would prefer them to stay in the Barnie realm.

In addition to streaming and kiosk credits, the service also offers the ability to rent or buy streaming movie rentals and purchases similar to iTunes or Amazon.  You would own the digital streaming rights of these movies and would be able to stream them like the subscription movies.  The rental prices seemed to be around $4.99 for SD and $5.99 for HD. Purchase prices appear to be $16.99 and $21.99 for HD. In general, the prices are about $1 – $2 higher than iTunes.  And many of the same movies are a quick drive away at the Redbox kiosk in addition to purchase/rent.  Fortunately, the Redbox Instant website intuitively lists the purchase, rental and kiosk availability of titles so you know.  For movie rentals, $1.20 versus $4.99 is a big difference worth getting in the car to go and pickup.  I’m surprised the instant rental prices are so much higher.

What to do to win me back?

In the end, convenience really was the primary factor in my decision to cancel.  Netflix is integrated on our Apple TV boxes at home – so its easy for my daughter to navigate and find her kids shows in the library and she doesn’t need Mommy or Daddy to navigate the menus for her.  For Netflix, its easy from the iPhone/iPod/iPad app and its easy from the Apple TV itself and Airplay works like Airplay was designed.  No so, for Redbox Instant.

For Redbox Instant, the best we could offer is Airplay mirroring (in letterbox from the iPad) or Airplay audio-only from our iDevices.  The experience is just not as good.  Its not as intuitive for a 6 year old – or my wife.  Airplay is easy enough, but the Redbox Instant app doesn’t allow for full Airplay of movies (why restrict this people?  seriously, why?).  Netflix has this figured out, so I hope that Redbox will get whatever approvals from content providers to turn this on – it’d make a big step towards ease of use.

I agree with analysts that I’ve read – people don’t want to watch movies on their 2.5″ or 10″ screens – they want to watch it on the big nice 60″ in the living room – with surround sound and popcorn.  Sure, streaming wherever you are, on whatever device you own is a great add-on feature, but restricting folks from being able to use your service in the living room is a colossal letdown.

A native Apple TV app would be great too for the Apple households, but cooperation with streaming, Blu-Ray and TV manufacturers to get their app on their set-top boxes is a must and it seems Redbox is destined to go there.  Engadget reported (via a Redbox Press Release) in December 2012 that Samsung, LG and Google TV devices would be getting the service added to their devices.  Sadly, my nearly brand new Samsung Blu-ray player was not on the list with the app.

Content, content, content

Content is the last major issue with the service, as it stands today.  Redbox Instant includes the same movies that I find in Netflix – just not all of the same movies.  Since the service is new, the library is limited.  It appears Netflix wins when it comes to lots of children’s content that my daughter loves to enjoy.  I really had a difficult time finding anything in the Redbox Instant service that I was not able to find in Netflix.  Adding to that, it was more convenient for me to play the same content from Netflix rather than jumping through hoops to watch a letter-boxed  iOS-mirrored movie on the big screen.

Perhaps the biggest saving grace for Redbox Instant is for people who are disgruntled with Netflix decision to separate the DVD and streaming services.  Netflix changes effectively doubled the price of the service to keep both DVD and streaming services which makes Redbox Instant a great alternative if you like that model.  You won’t have the full library of Netflix mail DVD service, but you will have convenience of picking up a DVD at your local grocery or drug store.   The kiosk selection seems to be good for new releases and in-demand movies. And, best of all, a Redbox Instant subscription comes at the same price as Netflix streaming only package.  That a big win for people who are paying up to double.

Conclusions

Even though I canceled my Redbox Instant subscription, I expect to revisit it in the future.  It is a compelling service for Netflix customers who also use the Redbox occasionally.   I hope that the content library grows and the device availability matures, working out the kinks along the way.   For me to come back, add a native Apple TV Redbox Instant App and/or make AirPlay work correctly in the Redbox Instant iOS app (although I prefer the native Apple TV app)  – that’s really all it would take…

In the end, competition is really great for the customer.  Amazon has a streaming service bundled with its Prime membership with brings other benefits, Hulu is a straight-forward streaming service with a current season TV slant, Netflix is the grand-daddy of full season TV past and no-commercial movies.  Adding Redbox Streaming to the mix is good for consumers, by adding another unique model that plays to Redbox’s strengths with their broad network of kiosks.

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13 Responses to “Review: Redbox Instant & why I canceled my trial”

  1. Tim #

    How did you cancel? I cannot find a spot anywhere to cancel this awful service. It just just plain doesn’t work.

    Thanks.

    February 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm Reply
    • Philip #

      Hi Tim – From your Redbox Instant account and then click on Account in the top right side. Once in your account, click Manage Subscription tab. You can remove the subscription there, but your Redbox account is still active for kiosk and maybe even streaming rentals/purchases. You could also try this link – https://www.redboxinstant.com/myAccount.html#/managesubscription.

      Hope this helps!

      February 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm Reply
      • Tim #

        Thanks. I ended up calling customer service and they directed me to the correct website. For whatever reasson, I kept being directed to Redbox, NOT redboxstreaming. After calling, they set me straight.

        February 2, 2013 at 7:11 am Reply
        • james #

          can you tell me what is the website to cancell. i cant find it either is not under My Account in redbox.com site

          February 6, 2013 at 8:23 pm Reply
  2. clarissa bublitz #

    i signed up for the instant streaming trial but could not get it on my xbox so i called up redbox they said i had to go online to cancel well i dont have a car and had the flu so i could not get to a computer till today the money was takin out of my account today i want my money refunded back into my account i cant use the instant streaming please send me a message to my email telling me you are refunding me my money back thank you

    February 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm Reply
  3. Caleb #

    Well I’m on it by xbox and I look at some movies and see you cant watch it but theres some you can ( old bored movies no one knows about ) and I want to watch the newest movies like flight and alex cross but it always says preview do I have to go pass the freettrial to watch them or do I have to go to one of the local kiosk? ?

    March 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm Reply
    • Philip #

      I noticed the same. For all the newest movies, they’re not available to stream with the subscription. I also noticed you can buy movies (like iTunes) and then stream them. There were newer titles that way, too.

      March 22, 2013 at 8:21 am Reply
  4. John #

    I am very disappointed with this service.

    I decided to try it with my roku box. Needless to say they don’t have an app for the roku as of yet, So I use my Playon program that does have an app. I decided I wanted to watch the inbetweeners movie so I tried to play it… low and behold they want an extra $4.99 rental or $11.99 purchase price. It cost $1.29 to rent a movie at the kiosk so why would I pay them $4.99 to stream it? I can go to amazon and rent it for $3.99 and get a better stream that doesn’t freeze up and have to load.

    So with this free trial I have decided it is not worth the money to subscribe. I will stick with Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and my Playon.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm Reply
  5. Jon #

    one word — ROKU –

    Their app wouldn’t work on my mac os 10.5 even though the website said it would. That’s ok, I can live with that.

    Their app wouldn’t work on my android 4.0 tablet even though i could download it from google play. That’s sort of ok, I can live with that.

    They didn’t have it available on my ROKU box. Cancelled my subscription.

    April 10, 2013 at 9:01 pm Reply
  6. Marcia Ratliff #

    Can you explain the benefits of having any of these services is? Why pay a monthly fee when, in addition, you have to pay to rent movies? I think Im missing something…?

    July 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm Reply
    • Philip #

      Hi Marcia – Redbox Instant is going to be very similar to Netflix Streaming or Amazon’s streaming service, where you have instant access to stream from a library of movies and TV shows. Redbox Instant also includes 4 kiosk rentals per month in the monthly fee. So you would need to pay for extra kiosk rentals if you use more than the 4 included. Redbox Instant also has the ability to buy movies (own access to stream them anytime) like Amazon or iTunes. I assume some people might like this model if they weren’t already a Netflix, iTunes or Amazon customer. Good thing is it bundles it all together like Amazon – into a single platform. Hope this helps.

      July 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm Reply
  7. VICTORIA #

    I GOT 3 MOVIES,RETURNED THEM,BUT CAN NOT STREAM ON MY LAPTOP OR TV. SO AT THIS TIME I STAY WITH NETFLIX. PLEASE CANCEL MY SERVICE,THANK YOU.

    September 23, 2013 at 4:06 am Reply
  8. NotHappy #

    I agree with the comments that it is difficult to delete you account, and why pay more to stream movies you can rent at the kiosk for less. If I subscribe, I should have access to all streaming content, or provide me a “premium” subscription where I get access to all the movies available for streaming. Don’t bait and switch me once I subscribe.

    Also, I logged into Redboxinstant.com… I clicked on my account and it took me to an account page where there was no cancel my subscription option. My credit card info was there… why not a cancel. I also searched in the help for cancel subscription, close account, etc…. NOTHING. That’s something I expect from a scam site, not Rebox/Verizon.

    Finally found the link by GOOGLING IT!

    Doubt they can win me back, but they would need to do a overhaul of their subscription model and make currently available to stream movies available as part of the subscription.

    Guess I have to call them to remove my credit card info and delete my account as those options don’t exist anywhere on the site period.

    January 21, 2014 at 7:29 pm Reply

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