A Business Technology Place


We spent time this week in strategic planning discussions. One challenge is how to separate the vision for the future from the desire to get better at existing services.  That is to separate the transformational changes from the incremental changes. Both are needed.

The factor that sticks out to me in both conversations is velocity. The rate at which a company can change and with what purpose will often dictate the how successful or unsuccessful it is in growing business or even surviving.

Blockbuster comes to mind. In 2004, this home entertainment company had over 9,000 retail store locations. In 2010 the company filed for bankruptcy and in 2013 the last store was closed. Home videos didn’t go away. In fact home videos are more popular than ever. But the format and methods by which consumers receive home videos changed quickly and BlockBuster didn’t react with the velocity to stay relevant in the market.

It’s a mistake that almost every company would have made. Hold on to your bread-and-butter while making small changes to adapt. But in this case, the primary generator of revenue for BlockBuster (retail stores)  became almost unused over the span of just a few years.

So how do we approach strategic planning? Certainly there should be an eye for improvements to the core products and services offered by the company. Look at changes to the environment,markets,supply chain, etc. to determine the strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats.

But the vision is just as important. Where are we headed and how do we get there? What intentional decisions are made now to keep the company moving in that direction?

Velocity describes more than the speed of change. It also describes what direction a company is moving. So the velocity of change by a company represents both its strategic direction as well as the speed in which it moves to get there.

I do remember this from the grade school playground. When running a race to see who is the fastest one to the finish line, you can’t win by turning around to look behind you. The winner is focused, dedicated, and always moving straight towards the goal. That sounds like a building block for a strategic plan.

Have you ditched cable and satellite TV? Mail order alternatives

It’s 2009 and just like you have alternatives for how you listen to music (radio, satellite, CD, digital player, etc.), there are a growing number of alternatives for how you watch video content as well. Gone are the days when you were restricted to watching video on your television from cable or satellite. You’ve got choices now for free or subscription based content delivered through your Internet device or from a home subscription service. This can make a big difference in your monthly budget. Right now I pay $52 per month for expanded basic cable TV (No movie channels, No High Definition, No DVR, yaddy yadda.) That’s $624 annually for 100 channels of programming of which I probably view 10-15. There’s opportunity for cost savings for sure. But what about buyer utility? What about choosing the content I want to see?

In this post I’ll take a look at mail order alternatives from Netflix and Blockbuster.  I’d like to look in general at how  these programmers are marketed and at the difference in features.  In a follow-up post, I’ll look at free online streamed content.


I found that Netflix focuses on two primary features in its online Marketing: The ability to have unlimited rentals each month and its ability to stream content to your PC or TV at no additional cost. They are a few mentions of television episode programming as well. I think this will become a larger feature for them in the future as they compete with traditional television and programming. They also heavily promote the speed of the turn-around service you receive for DVDs.


Blockbuster focused its marketing effort on promoting the fact that they have a mail-in option that can be combined with in-store returns and exchanges. Their subscription plans vary with the fee for exchanging in a store versus a mail-back. They also promote the ability for just a simple return to a store which releases the next mail-order DVD in the mail to you.

Feature Comparison

Feature Netflix Blockbuster Online
Shipping Free shipping both ways Free shipping both ways. Additional option to return to store for exchange for discounted rental.
Television Programming Yes (limited over 5,600 DVDs) No
Movies DVD and Blu-ray DVD and Blu-ray
Streaming to PC Yes (limited selection) Yes with Movie Link
Streaming to TV Yes, with converter device (limited selection) Yes, with converter device
  • Unlimited $8.99 month 1 DVD out at a time. Unlimited online content

  • Unlimited $13.99 month 2 DVDs out at a time. Unlimited online content

  • Unlimited $16.99 month 3 DVDs out at at time. Unlimited online content

  • Limited $4.99 1 DVD at a time and limited to 2 per month. 2 hours per month online content.
  • Limited $3.99 1 DVD out at a time, 2 per month, $1,99 in store exchanges.
  • Limited $9.99 1 DVD out at a time, 2 DVD per month, 2 free in store exchanges, $9.99
  • Unlimited $16.99 2 DVDs out at time, 3 in store exchanges.
  • Unlimited $19.99 3 DVDs out a time, unlimited through mail, 5 free in store exchanges.
Contract Required? No, cancel at anytime No, cancel at anytime
Free Trial Yes, One Month Yes, two weeks

So what’s your experience with either of these two services? How is the customer service? What is the quality of DVDs received in the mail?