If you’re anything like most Americans, it’s probably been a little while since the last time you bothered to rent a feature film, and it’s probably been even longer since you rented a physical copy of a feature film, in the form of a DVD or Blu-ray disc, from a Redbox kiosk down at the local grocery store. And yet, Redbox has persevered, and continues to operate 38,000 kiosks across the U.S., in addition to renting films via its proprietary streaming service. But perhaps unsurprisingly, the domination of streaming in the current media landscape has resulted in no shortage of challenges for Redbox, which presumably leads to today’s news: The iconic DVD renter will be acquired in a deal by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, in an all-stock transaction. Yes, the same company that produces the famed line of self-help books. They’ll own Redbox, of all things.
Looking a little closer, the deal—valued at $375 million—begins to make more sense. Redbox has been struggling for years, becoming a publicly traded company in Oct. of 2021, and laying off 150 employees, around 10% of its workforce, just last month. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, meanwhile, has been steadily acquiring indie film studios and streamers for several years, including the likes of Screen Media, 1091 Pictures, and the streaming service Crackle in 2019, which the company acquired from Sony Pictures Television. They also own entities such as Popcornflix, Truli, Pivotshare, Espan?olflix and FrightPix.
The question is, how much cultural cache is left in the Redbox name and brand at this point, when users have associated it for so long with a now-outdated mode of media consumption? There are reportedly still 40 million customers signed up for the Redbox loyalty program, which is an impressive figure, but how many of them intend to be active consumers of any form of Redbox streaming service? According to Variety, the merged company will be specifically targeting an opportunity they perceive at “the lower end of the streaming space, targeting value-conscious consumers.” Perhaps this could be a winning route in an era of economic anxiety?
Regardless, it doesn’t sound as if the Redbox kiosk at your local CVS is going to be ripped up at the roots any time soon—you can safely continue to ignore it as you pick up your prescriptions for the foreseeable future.