Talk about irony… I was drafting a “How To Save Moviebeam” post, when low and behold they’re purchased by Movie Gallery. While an acquisition wasn’t on my list, an expanded retail presence (in video rental stores) won’t hurt — though Best Buy end caps and shelf space in Radio Shack hasn’t seemed to be of much help. The selling price wasn’t disclosed, though Cisco, Disney, and Intel invested $48+ million after the unit was spun off from Disney. Presumably, Movie Gallery sees this as a way to get into digital delivery of content – much like Blockbuster is eyeing Movielink.
I’ve had Moviebeam in the house for about nine or ten months now (review here, YouTube video here), but it’s been sitting under the coffee table collecting dust for at least six of them. The idea to utilize unused broadcast bandwidth to “beam” movies over-the-air seemed clever, but in practice my reception was spotty… even after taping the antenna to the window (which wasn’t so attractive). MovieBeam also requires a telephone line to periodically dial up for billing purposes (pay per movie rental), which doesn’t work so well with the early adopters who might be interested in their product. So the first tip of my original “How To Save Moviebeam” post was to introduce them to the Internet and suggest they leverage the provided Ethernet jack.
My second suggestion was to go: All HD, all the time. Again, the market for this is (was?) the early adopter crowd. We’ve got HD sets and we want to use them. Three to five HD movies on the box at a time is not sufficient… Especially if they’re charging $200-$250 for the hardware. (At one point, they did offer an online promotion to get the box for $50. Looks like it’s $100 online at the moment.)
It’s not clear yet how the new owners of Moviebeam will position the product and how or if the service will evolve. Honestly, I was about ready to borrow a torx screwdriver to cannibalize the harddrive and pick up an enclosure for some external storage. However, I think I’ll hang tight for now.