Film and TV

T-Mobile's Sold-Out-Everywhere HTC HD2 Just Might Make You a Blockbuster Customer All Over Again

As I cast about for a new cellphone and provider, I am considering the generally well-regarded HTC HD2 from T-Mobile, despite having once vowed never to return to T-Mobile after it dropped the call during which my wife informed me she was going into labor. The phone went on sale today, and I probably would have bought one today -- at the low, low price of $200 with a contract -- had they not sold out citywide. (A salesman at West Village says he expect more next week; the Inwood and Lemmon location has no idea.) But when I do find one -- and, now, to the point of my post -- that'll just bring me this much closer to being a Blockbuster customer again.

Because, if you're unaware, the HTC HD2 comes with Blockbuster on Demand, which will allow you to download and watch its titles, well, from anywhere. (Though why it picked Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Forrest Gump as its "premium" freebies remains yet one more unfathomable mystery among Blockbuster's myriad questionable moves.) Among the countless why-tech announcements made by the downtown Dallas-based company over the last year or so, the HTC HD2 relationship is easily the biggest yet. And, as CNNMoney's David Goldman notes today, "The new service is also expected to be available on Android and Windows Mobile phones soon."

Not that Goldman and the analysts to whom he spoke for his story are impressed; the piece isn't headlined "Blockbuster is 'bleeding to death'" because it's upbeat. The word Band-Aid is bandied about, and those keeping an eye on the company burdened with $1 billion in debt say this new app is worth a few million, at most, and nothing to get too excited about. Still, it's a start -- better than bankruptcy.

Oddly, most analysts are more enthused about yesterday's announcement, during which Blockbuster more or less just reiterated its deal with Warner Bros., which gives Blockbuster a 28-day jump on Netflix and Redbox and Warners a bigger cut. (Update: I've been informed by someone who knows about these things that one thing the press release didn't say yesterday is that the Warners agreement will allow Blockbuster to stock nearly double the inventory of the studio's titles in stores the day they are released, which is important given the revenue-sharing agreement between the two.) Others are less impressed: Sure, they say, this may prop up Blockbuster in the short term, but in the end it'll only alienate those who long ago swore off the late-fee-charging Blockbuster for envelopes and parking-lot kiosks.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky