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Site Hopes to Attract Independent Stores

2 Aug, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

Blockbuster Inc. and Netflix may have a leg up in the online rental world, but Chris Hickey, CEO of 24hourvideo.com, thinks indies have the chance to scoop up business from Internet consumers.

The company, a division of online rental service Intelliflix.com, exhibited on the VSDA Home Entertainment 2005 show floor this year.

Through the site, Internet users can type in their ZIP code and find the nearest independent video store — Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery locations are not included — and if that store is part of the 24 Hour Video network, shoppers can peruse the store's inventory, reserve copies for pickup, even order home mail delivery just as they would at Blockbuster.com or Netflix.com.

The brick-and-mortar store integration is something Netflix can't offer, and Blockbuster doesn't yet, Hickey said.

“We think the local retailer from coast to coast may have a market advantage for the first time in 20 years,” he said. Blockbuster has said the company plans to integrate its online and in-store rental businesses, but that won't be complete for another six months or so, Hickey said.

According to his company's research, many online consumers want the product breadth that only an indie can provide. Giving those viewers a chance to mine content online could revitalize activity on dormant catalog titles for indies, he said.

The service costs $2,395 in a single payment or can be broken up into a $1,195 initial payment and a year's worth of $150 monthly payments, Hickey said.

That includes full setup of a Web site and promotions that cycle for a year. 24 Hour Video also takes a 10 percent transactional fee for any rentals that occur through the site.

Nearly 30 independent video stores are online with the program, and about 200 more are on tap, Hickey said.

24hourvideo.com creators operated under the radar while putting together the service — which may have hindered their cause.

Retailer Adrian Hickman was surprised to find TLA Video listed on the site — with some incorrect information. Hickman complained, and the TLA page was removed, but that doesn't mean he's made a summary judgment against the service.

“I think they basically got off on a bad foot,” he said. “But it seems like they're trying to turn it around. This may be a very good thing, but we need to know about it. We didn't want it forced down our throat.”

Hickman said he's glad the company was at the show this year, because it will give retailers the chance to open a dialogue.

“It may be a very worthwhile thing. There are some well-respected retailers doing it,” he said.

Video Zone in South Deerfield, Mass., touted the service in a press release. The site 24hourvideo.com went live over the July 4 weekend.“We were able to deploy everything at a fraction of the cost of having a customized Web site built for our store, and it's also synchronized with our inventory on a real-time basis,” said Video Zone owner Todd Zaganiacz.

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