The folks at Blockbuster felt compelled to issue a press release today stating emphatically that they don't throttle their online DVD rental customers. They clearly see a non-throttling service as a competitive advantage and point of difference with Netflix and are shouting it out loud and proud.
Here's their press release:
In response to customer inquiries stemming from media reports about a competing service, Blockbuster Online is emphasizing that its online DVD service does not "throttle."
Throttling, a practice that limits the number of movies shipped to heavy online DVD renters, has recently drawn media attention.
"Blockbuster Online does not throttle. When we say our service offers unlimited rentals, we mean it," said Shane Evangelist, senior vice president and general manager for Blockbuster Online. "We don't prioritize our customers' movie fulfillment based on how often they use our service, and we don't limit the number of movies a subscriber receives each month. We want our customers to get the full entertainment value that comes from a subscription plan, whether that's watching 20-plus movies a month or five." Evangelist added.
Blockbuster Online subscribers can choose from several rental plans, starting as low as $9.99, with the $17.99 three-movie-out plan being the most popular. Movies are sent directly to subscribers' homes by mail to be viewed at their convenience with no due dates or extended viewing fees.
"Our goal at Blockbuster Online is to see that our subscribers get their highest ranked movie selections as often as possible," added Evangelist. "Additionally, our subscribers receive one free in-store movie rental each week, so they can watch the DVDs they received through the mail or easily satisfy last-minute movie impulses with a trip to the nearest Blockbuster store."
OK, well, that's settled then.
Or at least it would be, if it weren't for one teensy weensy little problem.
The "Terms and Conditions" posted on their website as of 3:00 PM ET today still says they throttle.
No, they don't use the "T" word. (Neither does Netflix.)
But here's what they say (bold emphasis added by us):
When product is not available to satisfy all subscribers, Blockbuster Online determines product allocation among members, taking into consideration several factors.
Subscribers who have previously not received the full number of DVDs allowed out by their plan, which could happen because the subscriber either had no available movies or no movies at all in his or her queue, or due to technical problems, are given higher priority.
We also consider average queue position of the movies the subscriber previously received, with priority being given to those whose rentals have been in a lower position in their queue (for example, a subscriber who recently received his or her fourth or fifth choice may get a higher priority than someone who recently received their first choice).
New subscribers may also receive a higher priority until the subscriber has received a sufficient number of rentals to allow us to apply these other product allocation factors.
Blockbuster Online reserves the right to change these allocation metrics at any time, and to consider additional allocation metrics in the future, including, without limitation, a subscriber's historical rental volume, all with or without notice.
Sounds like throttling to us.
What else could all that possibly mean?