Online DVD Rental Services

by Edwin Rosenthal

Online DVD rentals allow a person to rent DVDs by mail. Usually, all interaction between the renter and the rental company takes place through the company’s website.

Most companies operate on the following model:

  • The customer joins the rental service and creates a list of titles.
  • DVDs from the list are mailed to the customer.
  • The customer watches the DVDs and sends them back.

The majority companies will let customers keep the DVDs for as long as they want; customers are, however, limited to a set number of discs out at any one time. Once a disc is returned, another is sent out except for pre-paid memberships. Some companies or plans may have a limit on the total number of DVDs rented in a month. A membership is usually billed monthly, and includes postage both ways. Some companies also offer video game rentals.

Types of plans:

Unlimited: These plans have no highest on the number of DVDs one can rent, although there is a limit on the number one may have out at any one time. The majority of the plans at Netflix, Blockbuster, etc. are of this type. “Unlimited” is something of a misnomer, since one will be limited by the delivery time of the postal service involved, the distance between the customer and the company’s warehouse, etc. The company may also take active steps to reduce the number of discs shipped see the “Throttling” section below.

Limited: These plans have a limit on the number of discs customers may have out at any one time, and also a maximum total of discs that can be rented during each billing period (usually monthly). This provides a cost ceiling for the supplier, and these plans are generally cheaper than unlimited plans. Some plans allow for extra shipments at extra cost once the maximum has been reached. Usually no credit is given if usage is below the maximum, although plans that allow this sort of “postpone” are not completely unknown.

Package: Instead of each disc being sent and returned independently, a “package” plan sends a sure number of disks together at permanent intervals (often weekly), and one returns all the discs in a single package as well. A common situation allows for two packages to be outstanding, and subsequent packages ship as a earlier one is returned.

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