Redbox is known to most as the company that operates DVD rental kiosks, many of them outside grocery stores and other retail outlets, which provide one of the primary ways that customers still rent DVDs, in a post-video store world.
However, Redbox has had a digital project for quite some time, which includes the Pluto TV-like Free Live TV product that launched early this year, as well as Redbox On Demand, which offers VOD titles. In August, Redbox added several channels to its Free Live TV offering, including Food, Travel, and Home & Design, and Cheddar.
Redbox also offered an Instant service in 2013 and 2014, in collaboration with Verizion, although the service was discontinued relatively quickly, especially after it emerged that criminals were using the service’s website to verify stolen credit card numbers.
But now, Redbox has launched another new service, called Free on Demand. It appears similar to Tubi and other services like it, offering free, ad-supported access to older movie titles. It’s in the “AVOD” category, which stands for advertising-based video on demand.
“Today’s audiences are fueling an unprecedented demand for premium quality on-demand content that is free with advertising. We expect to see continued growth in AVOD, making Free on Demand a significant addition to our free streaming platform,” Chris Yates, GM of Redbox On Demand, said in a statement to the press announcing the new service.
Redbox Free On Demand is available at launch on the Roku platform, and also on iOS and Android, and smart TVs from LG, Samsung and Video. On the Redbox iOS app, the Free on Demand feature is available as a tab, next to Free Live TV.
Featured films at launch include “The Illusionist,” “Haywire,” “The Brothers Bloom,” and the early Tom Hanks film “Mazes and Monsters.”
Redbox also has a production division, which had a hand in such films as the 2019 John Travolta vehicle “The Fanatic” and this year’s “Capone” and “Chick Fight,” although those films are not listed on the new service.
Doubts have been raised over Redbox’s ability to remain in business, but the company appears to have retained a large audience of users who still prefer physical media, and the company still offers over 40,000 kiosks. During the height of stay-at-home orders during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Redbox kept all of its kiosks open, while stepping up regular cleanings of the kiosks themselves. It also asked customers to disinfect discs and cases before bringing them home.
The company is not publicly traded and does not release user numbers; it was acquired by Apollo Global Management in 2016.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.