Verizon Teams Up with Redbox to Go After Netflix

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Rick Wilking / REUTERS

It’s a looming square-off of Shakespearean proportions: Smartphone colossus Verizon is buddying up with movie-rental-kiosk outfit Redbox to take the fight to streaming giant Netflix. Imagine Verizon’s press release articulated by Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country‘s General Chang (channeling Julius Caesar‘s Antony): “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!”

Or just the dogs of “subscription services.” Verizon’s not saying much beyond those two words at this point, just that the joint venture — split 65% Verizon, 35% Redbox — will occur in the second half of 2012. The press release is all fluff, full of rhetoric like “a new choice for quality- and value-conscious consumers” and “all of the convenience, simplicity and value of Redbox new release DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals combined with a new content-rich video on-demand streaming and download service from Verizon.” Verizon says it’ll have more to say about the service “in the coming months.”

(MORE: Report: Redbox + Verizon = Netflix Killer?)

The Redbox/Verizon deal’s been rumored for nearly two months now. In December, sites began reporting the two companies were planning an online TV and movie service, due this spring, and dubbed (or possibly just codenamed) “Project Zoetrope.” The service was said to offer both streaming and downloadable HD and standard definition content to platforms ranging from iOS and Android to Google TV, Xbox, Roku, web browsers and more.

Analysts have been bullish about Redbox parent company Coinstar’s prospects, too, buttressing assumptions Coinstar would unveil an online streaming strategy in early 2012 and rating the company’s (rising) stock price a “buy.”

Why so few details at the outset? Competitive concerns, says Bob Mudge, Verizon’s president of consumer and mass business markets, noting Verizon and its partners are “limiting [their] description to ‘streaming services and more,'” for now. Translation: They want to bolster share value now, based on analyst expectations, but they’re far from ready to rumble — “second half of 2012” means anywhere from July to December.

Without details about subscription rates, catalog comprehensiveness, potential live TV partnerships (like Verizon’s FiOS/Xbox 360 deal) or how Redbox’s kiosk service figures into the equation, all we can say at this point is that the December rumors were accurate, and “stay tuned.”

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