Redbox, with its familiar kiosks located near supermarket checkout lanes, will begin renting 4K ultra-high-definition Blu-Ray DVDs as an experiment in six big markets. That’s a potentially big step as the fragile DVD market migrates to 4K offerings.
The roll-out is limited to six cities — Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Miami, Detroit and New York City. That puts UHD videos in 2,500 Redbox locations. In New York City, most of the kiosks will be stocked with UHDs at the beginning. In the other cities, all of the kiosks ought to be fully stocked.
There are 41,500 Redbox rental kiosks nationwide.
Redbox is offeringonly four titles: “Black Panther,” “The Commuter,” “The Matrix” and “The Martian.” The company said new titles will be rolled out weekly. They will rent for $2.50.
Timing may be as right as it’s ever been to expand to Ultra HD as the rental market changes.
According to the Digital Entertainment Group, rentals from kiosks like Redbox, among other rental operations, were off 22% to $279 million in the first quarter, no doubt reflecting the growing popularity of video streaming. Spending on physical discs reached $1.1 billion in the first quarter but that’s down 10% from the year before.
On the other hand, sales in the 4K Ultra HD format was up 130%. Even with a small base, that’s an indication of how the market is changing. And manufacturers are now beginning to offer deep discounts.
“This is a major move for Redbox as we focus on expanding consumer access to home entertainment options across price points and formats,” Redbox CEO Galen Smith said in a statement. “As the popularity of 4K content increases and pricing of 4K hardware decreases, we’re excited to offer the best viewing experience at the best price for 4K Blu-ray discs.”
Netflix, of course, is the 800-pound gorilla that is eating up the DVD rental market that gave it life. It now has 55 million streaming customers in the U.S. Though it’s not out of the rental market, it has shrunk to 3.17 million customers as of Q1. At its peak in 2010, it had 20 million.