Blockbuster squares up for VOD battle

When was the last time you went to a Blockbuster? Exactly. The once mighty video rental chain has turned into little more than a sweet shop with over-

When was the last time you went to a Blockbuster? Exactly. The once mighty video rental chain has turned into little more than a sweet shop with over-bright lighting.

But things could be about to turn around for the brand, with the launch of a Blockbuster MediaPoint player here in the US. Just 99 bucks (£64) will buy Yanks 2Wire's video on demand player and 25 movie rentals from a choice of 'thousands'. Once the initial rentals are watched, movies will be available from $1.99 (£1.28), although new releases will probably cost more.

The MediaPoint player has an Ethernet port and Wi-Fi (it's unclear which flavour) and the usual DVR pause and rewind features. It's 'about the size of two boxes of movie candy' (which in this country is not especially small) and comes with HDMI and component video out.

Although 2Wire's VoD player apparently supports HD content, films will be delivered in 'DVD quality'.

It seems to be a decent enough deal, although Blockbuster is playing catch-up. Netflix - known here as The VoDfather - already has its $99 Roku player, as well as strategic partnerships with TiVo, Microsoft's Xbox, LG and Samsung.

Having said that, it's still early days for VoD and if it comes down to a straight battle between Netflix's subscription model and Blockbuster's pay-as-you-watch, get ready for a seriously entertaining showdown.