Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

More and more companies are getting into the business of delivering video downloads to your TV. Apple, Vudu, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, TiVo, DirecTV and Sling Media are a few of the brands in this category.

Now Blockbuster, most famous as a brick-and-mortar movie rental chain, has joined the fray with their Blockbuster OnDemand service.

For a limited, unspecified time, Blockbuster is offering their MediaPoint Digital Media Player for free ... sort of.

If you're willing to enter into a deal to rent 25 Blockbuster OnDemand movies for $99, Blockbuster gives you the player at no charge. After you use those 25 rentals, additional movie downloads can be rented for as little as $1.99 each.

For the time being, Blockbuster only rents the movie downloads; you can't buy movies through the service.

You need a broadband internet connection; it can be wired or wireless, since the MediaPoint player easily accommodates either. The player is small by set-top box standards, taking up little more space than a hardcover book

Blockbuster proudly touts that MediaPoint "uses progressive playback, not streaming, so video quality is consistent no matter the speed of your internet connection." You can start viewing a video as soon as 30 seconds after ordering it, but features like rewind, pause and fast forward are only enabled once a rental is fully downloaded.

Blockbuster claims they'll have new movies available within 30 days of DVD release. Currently they offer thousands of titles, from the latest releases to classics to uncut and unrated episodes of The Jerry Springer Show and Blind Date (nothing X-rated at the moment).

My MediaPoint player arrived last week. It was a snap to hook up; I had it out of the box and downloading my first rental in 20 minutes. That was the good news.

The bad news: Whenever I tried to watch a movie, my screen went from color to black and white. After two calls - equaling an hour and a half - with Blockbuster's tech support, I learned this problem had never been reported before. That honor earned me a new MediaPoint box, which is in the mail as we speak.

While I applaud Blockbuster for their tenacious tech support, I don't think much of the MediaPoint player experience.

Got a gadget question or a high-tech toy to recommend? E-mail gspot@columbusalive.com