Mike Fleming

Blockbuster made it official today, filing its long expected Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with a line of creditors that includes its product suppliers like Fox, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros and Disney. It seems unfathomable that given Blockbuster’s supremacy at one time–think of all the mom and pop video stores that went out of business when Blockbuster set up shop nearby–the corporation could not have been more forward thinking. It could have owned the VOD and rental by mail space dominated by Netflix, and it got its head handed to it by Coinstar’s Redbox, which offered the same DVDs in supermarket kiosks for 25% of the rental prices charged by Blockbuster. Its forays into those areas came too late because they were locked into the brick and mortar game plan. While Carl Icahn is reportedly buying up Blockbuster debt and somebody might take a shot at resurrecting Blockbuster and its $1 billion in assets, it might well be too late to establish itself in VOD and as a buyer of pay TV rights for films, as Netflix is now doing at a fraction of the costs incurred by Blockbuster to maintain its 3000 stores. It’s a cautionary tale about standing pat when the sand is shifting under your feet, and Blockbuster’s woes are similar to those being felt by brick and mortar bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. They’re also hard pressed to compete with web rivals like Amazon, serving up both paper books and e-titles without having to pay rent, the light bill and staff the cash registers.