Netflix has won: Blockbuster is closing its last retail stores

November 6, 2013

A Blockbuster store in Racine, Wis., displays prepares to close its doors in March 2010. Dish Network announced Nov. 6, 2013, that it will close the remaining 300 Blockbuster locations scattered across the United States. (Scott Anderson/Journal Times via AP)

Bloomberg reports that Dish Network, which bought bankrupt video rental store Blockbuster in 2011, will close all remaining retail locations by the end of the year. So ends the long, slow death march of the brick-and-mortar video rental store.

The demise of Blockbuster is a pretty clear case of a company not seeing the technological trends that overhauled its industry. Variety reported in 2005 that the company refused not one but several offers to buy Netflix for $50 million back when the company was still essentially a mailing subscription service that could be managed online. But by the time Netflix launched its online streaming service in 2007, Blockbuster was trying to sell brick-and-mortar customers on its "Total Access" DVD-by-mail program.

It didn't catch up to providing some form of online streaming until after being picked up by Dish in 2011 — long after competitors Netflix and Hulu had staked out significant market shares. And even that attempt didn't go very well.

The death of Blockbuster's remaining retail outlets is not a surprise to anyone. If anything, the surprise is that it has taken so long — the company was already down to 300 locations. And Dish intends to keep the Blockbuster on Demand streaming service afloat for the moment. But it seems unlikely that it will be able to seriously challenge Neftlix, the once upstart DVD-by-mail company now worth nearly $20 billion, any time soon.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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