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Could Redbox Be The Answer to Bringing Tech Holdouts Into The Streaming Age?

Jeff Kotuby

Could Redbox do what Blockbuster couldn’t and successfully bring its physical media customers into the streaming age? The man in charge of the whole operation seems to think so — and they’re doing it little by little.

In an interview with NextTV, Redbox CEO Galen Smith outlined his ideas for bringing his company’s 40 million “late adopters” who still rent physical DVDs and Blu-rays from its 40,000 kiosks into the streaming age. But Smith isn’t quite ready to ditch the kiosks, saying they serve an important purpose. “It’s expanded,” Smith said of the kiosks’ expanding role. “Sure it’s absolutely something that allows you to distribute discs or other content. But we really transformed over the past number of years to make it an advertising machine. Think about it as a digital out-of-home entertainment experience.”

Where is Redbox driving users to, exactly? Its blooming digital presence, including AVOD and SVOD services, original programming, and, soon, a single sign-in program for its SVOD partners. But it’s not driving its longtime consumers there forcefully by discontinuing kiosks, but rather by nudging them once in a while every time they visit a kiosk for their weekend movie.

“These, on average, are later adopters of technology,” Smith said. “So they haven’t necessarily made that full digital shift yet. If you think about Redbox being an almost 20-year-old business, that becomes really, really powerful, because we’re not necessarily competing for the same customers that everyone else is. We’ve got this unique defined customer base that loves us and is loyal to us. And what we want to do is continue to expand the way that we serve their needs.”

Redbox has greatly invested in its online presence, continuing to expand its free, ad-supported live TV service on a regular basis. In July,the service reached 100 linear channels, including Crackle, Popcornflix, Tastemade, Unsolved Mysteries, Cheddar News, Divorce Court, Pac-12 Network and an entire channel dedicated to the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000, among others. Redbox has likewise deepened its catalog of content on its Free On Demand ad-supported service, including content from Shout! Factory, Legendary Television, Magnolia Pictures, and Relativity Media.

But what could be an even bigger game-changer for the company is its one-tap “keyring” feature for its partnered streaming services. Redbox has “this really big set of consumers that are later adopters of technology and haven’t made that full digital shift,” Smith said. “And I can help bring them to you as a subscription service, it becomes a really incredible partnership, because they may not have been able to find you otherwise. And being able to use that kiosk to serve up a free trial when you’re grabbing a movie becomes a really powerful tool.” This feature will likely be ready by the end of 2021.

The linear channels are available on the Web at Redbox.com, Roku, iOS and Android devices, Android TV, Vizio Smart TVs, LG TVs, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Samsung TVs, and Chromecast.

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