Blockbuster, the video rental giant that’s trying to figure out a role for itself in a world of digital downloads, has struck a deal that should help: Its Blockbuster OnDemand service will be offered on TiVo DVRs. TiVo owners will be able to rent and buy movies from a selection of 5,000 to 10,000 titles (including new major studio releases, but nothing from Disney), with prices typically ranging from $4 to $10.
Blockbuster will also start selling TiVos in its stores, helping its customers make the inevitable transition from driving to the video store to choosing movies via remote control.
The deal adds yet another video provider to TiVo’s already well-rounded list: The TiVo HD in my living room already offers Netflix Watch Instantly, Amazon Video on Demand, Jaman, Disney releases via CinemaNow, and more. Each one’s a bit different in its scope and focus–Netflix, for instance, offers all-you-can-watch pricing but doesn’t have major new releases; Amazon has a ton of stuff, but each item is priced separately; Jaman specializes in international films.
The experience is a little disjointed–each provider has a separate interface, so it’s a little like visiting a mall with multiple video stores rather than one giant store–and TiVo needs more high-definition content. (It should get that once Amazon launches HD titles.) But TiVo’s doing a good job of giving folks reasons to buy a box that go beyond recording cable TV–which is essential to its future, since it’s competing with renting a cheap DVR from your cable company.
As I said in the piece on Internet TV boxes I just wrote for PC World, I’d much rather have one multi-purpose box in my living room than a bunch of specialty ones. There’s no one Ultimate Universal Box yet, but TiVo’s doing enough to keep me from buying and finding space for something like a Vudu or Roku box. But if you know of anyone who makes a cable-ready DVR/DVD/media streamer that also plays Wii games and can replace a Slingbox, please lemme know…