July 15, 2011, 1:02 PM

Blockbuster sees anger at Netflix as an opportunity

A new Total Access promotion offers consumers a 30-day free trial.

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Many consumers are angry at Netflix Inc. over its steep price hike announced this week. Blockbuster is trying to take advantage of that unhappiness with its biggest online competitor.

Blockbuster, now owned and operated by Dish Network Corp. and No. 42 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is launching a limited-time, nationwide promotion of Blockbuster Access to customers of Netflix Inc. still angry over the plan to eliminate a combination DVD-by-mail and unlimited streaming rental plan priced at $9.99 in favor of offering consumers the option to subscribe to either format for $7.99 each. Blockbuster’s Total Access gives subscribers the option of returning their online rental DVDs by mail or exchanging them at participating Blockbuster stores.

To gain more subscribers from Netflix, Blockbuster, which was acquired in April by Dish Network at a bankruptcy auction, is offering Netflix subscribers who switch to one of two popular versions of Total Access a free 30-day trial. After the free trial, customers will continue to receive Total Access for $9.99 per month for  1 DVD or Blu-ray disk at a time or $14.99 per month for two disks.

Earlier in the week Netflix said if its customers want DVDs by mail and streaming they will have to subscribe to both and pay a minimum of $15.98 per month to have one DVD checked out at a time and access to unlimited streaming.

In its latest promotion Blockbuster offered no deals on downloading or streaming digital versions of movies and TV show episode. But Blockbuster does see an opportunity to steal away some of the 21.4 million paid subscribers Netflix claimed as of March 31.

"Blockbuster quickly responded to the cries of Netflix customers," says Blockbuster president Michael Kelly. "Blockbuster Total Access is Netflix 'without the wait.' The combination of DVDs by mail and unlimited in-store exchanges provides more than 100 million people living near Blockbuster stores immediate convenience and unparalleled choice."

Netflix hasn’t said if it will respond to Blockbuster’s latest promotion. But the company continues to diversify its digital operation. A Netflix app is now available for the Nintendo 3DS, a popular video game player. To use the app, Nintendo 3DS users will need a monthly streaming subscription and broadband Internet access, says Netfllix.

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