Coming Soon to Home Video…well, that depends on where you rent videos or better yet you can always buy a copy!

28 days later…no there is no need for quotes or capital letters, because I’m not referring to the horror film of the same name, but rather this is how long Netflix customers will wait to rent new releases from Warner Bros., Fox, and Universal – the latter two new additions to the list.When Netflix and Redbox signed a deal with Warner Bros. to delay the availability of new releases for 28 days one had the sense this was only the beginning, that more studios would follow suit.Which brings us to the new agreement between Netflix, Fox and Universal, which just happens to come at a seemingly inopportune time considering the imminent release of Avatar onto DVD and Blu-ray (April 22, 2010).

While Netflix is quick to point to the newly expanded streaming library afforded by the deal (and potentially more copies of the “newer” releases following the 28 day window) some customers will likely feel less than enthused by these changes.Netflix is also quick to add that less than 30% of the discs mailed to customers are new releases…but are their customers necessarily demanding older films?Probably not, instead this value is likely a product of the mail delivered video rental model.In other words when a consumer fills out their queue they likely include new releases, but due to limited supply these movies may be unavailable and in its place the company will send the subscriber a film lower on the list, which is often an older film.If this were a pay-per-play model we would certainly not expect 70% of rentals to be older films, at least not from a mainstream video rental company.

Does this mean Blockbuster is gaining an edge?Well if the advertising campaign put forth by Blockbuster for “Sherlock Holmes” was an indication then at the very least the company believes this is a strong differentiator.To this point, in the short term these moves might support Blockbuster’s physical stores and potentially the pay-TV operators who get the movies for their VOD platforms.Over time however Blockbuster will still need to work on converting hybrid pay-per-play Blockbuster/Netflix customers into full Blockbuster only subscribers.If new releases at large become pay-per-play only then Blockbuster could be well positioned to offer the most complete package, as it were – that is subscription (mail order and some in-store) and pay-per-play rentals.The one missing element is a streaming service like Netflix (not pay-per-play), which does a remarkable job accentuating the value of older content.

Another goal of the 28 day delay is to encourage more consumers to buy DVDs/Blu-ray discs at retail, although the efficacy of this plan is less certain.As a consumer if I had little intention of buying a movie for $15-$30 would the limited availability entice me to purchase rather than rent the movie?This analyst is a bit dubious of that connection, but you never know – does “instant” gratification merit the extra expense?Or perhaps consumers may simply see a release date and then tack on 28 additional days.Time will tell, but in the mean time if you are confused about when, where or how you can rent a video take solace in knowing that you are probably not alone and if all else fails you can always give that person a call who seems to know everything about technology, he or she just might know…maybe.