Netflix & Blockbuster go Head to Head

In 1999, Netflix stormed onto the scene and launched a unique and ultimately revolutionary service. Renting movies from the comfort of your home was born, and it didn't take time for them to become the hands down leader in this space. Then came Blockbuster, the goliath of the rental store with an international reputation in their field. They wanted a piece of that pie and in 2004 launched their own online rental service to mixed reviews.

It's 2008 now and both companies have fine tuned their service and become the leaders in the space. When searching for a DVD rental company, your decision usually comes down to Blockbuster or Netflix. We've gone ahead and tried to stack these two companies against one another to ultimately show which company is the true king in DVD rental.


Netflix comes in at around 80,000 while Blockbuster has over 70,000. Both sides have just about everything you could dream of on DVD, from blockbuster hits to obscure cult classics. Blockbuster tends to have more directors' cuts, special versions and other alternative releases from the studios. Netflix has a wider selection of documentaries and television shows that are readily available. One issue that Blockbuster has with true cinema purists is their lack of unrated or NC-17 films available. Overall, Netflix has more titles available and broader inventory.

Advantage: netflix is the Winner


While having a diverse inventory is a plus, the availability of that inventory is equally as important. Both companies offer little to no wait on most of their movies, including popular new releases. This is likely due in part to both companies working out deals with movie studios to burn their own copies of DVDs for customers to match demand.

Advantage: Push Blockbuster is the Winnernetflix is the Winner


Both companies have switched to Blu-Ray as their high definition media of choice. Each company stocks a solid selection of Blu-Ray titles that tend to focus on newer releases. Blockbuster doesn't seem to have many copies in stock and routinely marks these movies as short, long, or very long waits. Netflix on the other hand is a little better, but still encounters occasional delays. Overall for Blu-Ray fans, it is easier to get copies of this media through Netflix.

Advantage: netflix is the Winner


A critical component to online DVD rental has been the ability to view other user reviews to determine if a movie is something you'd be interested in. Netflix currently has user reviews as well as links to reviews from famous critics. Blockbuster only has user reviews at the moment. On top of that, the Netflix user base seems to be filled with more movie buffs and thus the reviews are more informational.

Advantage: netflix is the Winner


Coming in at 76 known shipping centers, Netflix has Blockbuster almost doubled in this area. Blockbuster however has a couple hundred stores that can be used with their Total Access plans. Both companies can get DVDs to members within one day if they are in short proximity to a major or mid-sized city. With Blockbuster continuing to scale down their brick and mortar business, Netflix does have a slight advantage over their competitor in terms of speed and reliability. While this advantage may fluctuate depending on your geographic location, Netflix is still as a whole a bit better than Blockbuster in terms of shipping.

Advantage: netflix is the Winner


Both companies offer similar pricing in terms of their basic unlimited plans. Blockbuster features a Total Access plan that allows users to return a number of DVDs directly to their local Blockbuster location for free. Netflix has higher volume plans that go up to 8 DVDs at one time (Blockbuster's highest plan is 3). The advent of the unlimited free streaming movies online that Netflix offers to its members on every plan gives their members more value for their dollar.

Advantage: netflix is the Winner

Community Features

Netflix offers a vibrant community that allows members to add friends to a list and share their movie selections. Each movie features comprehensive reviews by members that will also show you how your movie tastes match up with theirs. While Blockbuster offers user reviews, they don't have any social networking features such as a friends list. You also can't leave notes for other members.

Advantage: netflix is the Winner

Recommendation Engine

Both companies strongly utilize a recommendation engine to help members add new movies to their queue. These engines are based on a number of factors, but are ultimately based on what your ratings are for a particular movie and what movies you may like or dislike because of it. Blockbuster uses ChoiceStream and currently has a better recommendation engine. Their selections matched up more with our tastes and seemed to focus more on individual movies and less on genres. Netflix on the other hand puts too much emphasis on actors and genres in their recommendations. If I rated a TV show such as Friday Night Lights as 5 stars in their system, I am bombarded with recommendations for every teen TV drama, not for shows similar in viewership to it. If I rate a Will Ferrell movie high, I am besieged with his other movies (although I only like some of his work and prefer him as a supporting actor) with little regard to when it was made or who is co-stars were. Therefore, we feel that Blockbuster is simply more detailed in their recommendations while Netflix is too broad.

Advantage: Blockbuster is the Winner

Distinguishing Feature

Blockbuster has prided itself on its Total Access plan which allows members to exchange rentals at a local store. These plans come at a slightly higher price than their mail order plan. It's a nice feature if you live near a location, although you are limited to the selection at their store. Netflix has launched a video on demand service that allows members to stream a few thousand movies directly to their computer at no extra charge. While we like the Blockbuster option, the Netflix streaming movies is just a more appealing feature and allowed us to get in many more movies in the course of a month (at no extra charge).

Advantage: netflix is the Winner


We tend to believe that your decision may ultimately come down to whether there is a Blockbuster near you. If used correctly, their Total Access plan can get you more DVDs for your money than Netflix. However, you have to be dedicated to making in-store exchanges and a fairly high volume customer.

Otherwise, Netflix is a superior product as an online DVD rental service. They have better selection, ship faster, and allow you to even stream movies directly into your home for no extra charge. Their site is more polished and offers more features than Blockbuster. With some similar pricing in place, the choice would be Netflix at this time in the matchup of these two corporate monsters.

Advantage: netflix is the Winner