There’s just no stopping the madness. From Hooters restaurants to businesses selling books for homeschooled children to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, everyone seems to be pursuing a marketing tie-in to March Madness, a.k.a. the NCAA basketball tournament. This week, the nation’s attention turns to the college basketball tourney—if not the actual games, at least to office pools. It’s a costly time for American businesses; by one estimate, the loss in productivity due to the tournament will run a total of $134 million just on Thursday and Friday. Any time an event is on the minds of millions of American consumers, there will surely be businesses seeking a piece of the action. Here are some examples: The Bracket Racket The NCAA’s bracket format lends itself naturally to a series of face-to-face vote-offs on the Internet. Just substitute products, or movies, or even regional hot dogs and sausages, and wah-la! You’ve got a customized bracket that (hopefully) will be a magnet for clicks on your site, as viewers vote and check in—and probably, reveal lots of personal data that’ll help your marketing efforts further—throughout the course of the tournament. (MORE: March Madness Will Cost Businesses $134 Million. Why Aren’t Employers Concerned?) The Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” tournament has been taking place for years, but it’s hardly the only one. Last year, in meta joke fashion, the Atlantic put together a bracket of brackets, in which Internet viewers voted for their favorite oddball brackets, from Worst Sci-Fi movie to Jezebel’s Sex vs. Chocolate showdown (the missionary position won, beating out brownies in the final), and beyond. This year, among the many brackets seeking your attention are some fairly straightforward ones, like the battle for the best sitcom at Vulture.com and the best music single of the past year at Billboard.com. Redbox, meanwhile, has a Movie Matchup, and picking winners yields points that can be used for free movie rentals. There are also curiously specific vote-offs, like the top player in Houston Rockets history at Bleacher Report and the Cooking
Sure, Valentine’s Day is the ultimate Hallmark Holiday, when restaurants are crowded and overpriced and people buy gifts mainly because they feel obligated. But February 14 is also a terrific day for snagging free stuff—cookies, donuts, DVD rentals, and more. Here’s a selection of freebies for Valentine’s Day 2013: Denny’s: Print out a coupon for a free coffee, only through 2 p.m. on Valentine’s Day. Krispy Kreme: February 14 is the last day to get Valentine’s cards good for 12 free donuts—with the purchase of a dozen donuts at normal price. (MORE: Shopping for a Soul Mate? Stores Host Dating Events This Valentine’s Season) Panera Bread: Use Treater.com to send a credit for a free cookie to a friend—or just to yourself, if you’d rather. Log in via Facebook is required. The resulting “Treat Card” doesn’t expire, but you must order the freebie by February 14. Pretzelmaker: Like the pretzel chain on Facebook, and when you buy a heart-shaped pretzel, you’ll get a second one for free. Qdoba: It’s buy-one-get-one-free entrees on February 14, so long as you share a kiss with someone when placing your order at the register. Quiznos: Use the link to print out a coupon, good for a free toasted cookie with the purchase of a regular or large sub, on February 14 only. Redbox: Enter the code SWEET online or at a Redbox kiosk for a free one-night DVD rental, on February 14 only. (MORE: Valentine’s Day Deals: Romance in the Form of Heart-Shaped Meat, Fast Food by Candlelight) Ruby Tuesday: Make a reservation online for February 14 to 17, and you’ll get a coupon for a free dessert. Starbucks: Head with a friend to Starbucks between 2 p.m and 5 p.m. today, when a buy-one-get-one-free promotion is in effect for three hot drinks: Vanilla Spice Latte, Caffè Mocha, and Hot Chocolate.
Redbox Instant by Verizon, the up-and-coming joint venture that’s preparing to take on Netflix, is now live in Google Play. The service won’t be publicly launching until early 2013, according to a recent report from The Hollywood Reporter, however. But Redbox recently told GigaOm that a beta test would begin in December – and, apparently, it’s beginning today.
Although Redbox has not yet put out an official press release about the launch as of the time of writing (we’ve since reached out for more information), the Android news blog Android Police this morning spotted the Redbox Instant app arrive in Google’s mobile application store, Google Play.
In addition, the Redbox Twitter account this morning announced the launch, too. “Today is the day! We’re *gradually* rolling out access to redboxinstant.com,” the tweet read, pointing users to the sign up page.
The app’s description spells out the details of what the service provides – specifically, a free trial period with a month of unlimited streaming as well as four DVD credits which can be used at a Redbox kiosk. Users can watch movies on their Android phone or tablet with the app, bookmark favorite titles, buy and rent movies (even without a subscription), and browse through Redbox’s database of thousands of titles, the app’s description informs us.
A web page where users can enter in their email in order to sign up for the beta is available here. The site indicates that the service will be $8 per month after the trial ends. GigaOm also previously reported that the service would be charging $6 per month for streaming access and $8 per month for 4 DVD credits per month. This information was gathered by accessing Redbox’s own help documentation publicly available on the web.
Rentals and sales will start at $0.99 apiece, Redbox’s help pages stated when GigaOm spotted them. After their report went live, the support site was pulled down so it was no longer publicly accessible.
Redbox’s iOS application has not been updated at this time, nor is any new app for Redbox Instant appearing now in the Apple App Store just yet. Update: the iOS app has just appeared in App Store search.
The company is planning on supporting iOS and Android devices, as well as web streaming, the Xbox 360 and some Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players. Redbox has also tweeted today that Google TV support is in the works. Customers will be able to register up to five devices to access the service.
We’ve asked Redbox for additional information about the beta launch, and will update if it has anything to share.
Here’s the intro video (below)…Which is not obnoxious at all.
Earlier this month, Redbox announced that it’s going to start selling live event tickets from its ubiquitous red kiosks. That seemed like a smart move for Redbox, which is best-known as a DVD rental service, but it turns out the idea actually came from outside — specifically from Naveen Jain, CEO of digital agency Sparkart.
Jain says the idea came to him when he was on a plane to Chicago, where Janet Jackson and Bon Jovi were both having concerts. (They’re both clients of Sparkart, which is also getting into the product business with a website builder called Storyteller.) He ended up sitting next to a Redbox engineer, and they struck up a conversation about the company’s business. Near the end of that conversation, Jain asked the important question: Had Redbox ever thought of going into the ticketing business?
After all, Jain knew (through his work with musicians at Sparkart) that 40 percent of LiveNation tickets go unsold, often because people just didn’t know about the event. At the same time, he argues that when someone goes to a Redbox kiosk, what they’re looking for is entertainment, which is a lot broader than movies. So it seemed like a natural fit to help people discover local events.
I suspect that many of us have moments of inspiration like this too, but we rarely act on them. Jain, on the other hand, actually set up a meeting at Redbox, with Mark Achler, its senior vice president of new business, innovation, and strategy. That meeting led to a partnership between Redbox and Sparkart, with the agency offering business development, technical consulting, and design.
Achler tells me that the possibility of selling tickets may have been discussed within Redbox before, but over the course of a year, Jain transformed it from a random thought into a real product.
“Naveen got our wheels turning,” Achler says. “We really think our customers find and discover great movies and games with us, and we wondered if we can do that same thing with live entertainment.”
Right now, the program is being piloted in Philadelphia, where customers will be able to buy tickets to the Philadelphia Film Festival, NASCAR’s Pocono Raceway, and more. Next, it plans to expand to Los Angeles, and eventually, to roll the service out nationally. (Redbox says it currently operates 38,500 kiosks across the country.) The company is working with partners on a national, local, and neighborhood level to offer tickets for a wide range of events, Achler says — and for all of those tickets, they’ll only need to pay a convenience fee of $1.
“What I love about the Redbox vision for this business, is it’s more than just concert tickets,” Jain says. “It could be tickets to the zoo, it could be the local sporting event, it could be tickets to a museum.”
Achler adds that he doesn’t want to take business away from the existing ticketing industry, but instead to help them “grow the pie.” He also suggests this is part of a broader effort by Redbox to expand its business, as evidenced by the relatively recent addition of video game rentals and its partnership with Verizon to launch a streaming Netflix competitor.
With Amazon Prime Instant Video gaining thousands of titles previously exclusive to Netflix’s catalogue, Amazon’s streaming option is gaining more credibility. But is the online retailer even playing to win?
“John Carter” was one of the biggest film flops of all time. The special-effects-heavy sci-fi epic set on Mars turned out to be an epic box office failure in the U.S. for Disney, leading to a shakeup of company executives. Even as audiences largely ignored the film, “John Carter” finds itself at the center of [...]
Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, is launching a new video-on-demand service aimed squarely at Netflix, in a move that illustrates accelerating competition for advantage over the digital living room. The new service, called Xfinity Streampix, will be available to over 20 million Comcast subscribers, and will feature programs from the company’s NBC Universal subsidiary, [...]
This will not end well. Redbox, in position to be the cheap, local, easy alternative to the confusing, troublesome Netflix, has decided to raise its rates to $1.20 per day. I guess they wanted a piece of Netflix’s humble pie.
Coinstar, the company that owns the Redbox brand and boxes, explained it this way: “The change is primarily due to the increase in operating expenses, including the recent increase in debit card interchange fees as a result of the Durbin Amendment.” And naturally, that cost should be passed right back onto their loyal customers.
I can’t help but editorialize here. It’s just hard to think of a more wrongheaded and shortsighted decision for them to make. Here they have a strong brand built on thrift and a major competitor being laid low by an untimely and confusing rate change. If they plan on being in business for more than a couple years, maintaining the $1 pricing is essential.
Why not take another tack? Renegotiate contracts with grocery stores and bodegas where the Redbox machine arguably brings in business. Slim the margins elsewhere so you can afford the hit. Or just charge an extra quarter on debit card transactions, and give the customer an option to select a different payment method. Anything but reneging on the deal that made the brand known in the first place.
Netflix lost 800,000 subscribers, and many more have been dissuaded from ever joining. But it’s not an instantaneous change, and Redbox needed to make a soft landing for them, not act with the same entitlement that Bank of America did in passing on the debit fees to customers. People are leaving that bank in record numbers, and I don’t see how Redbox can expect anything different.