In one of the stranger media purchases in recent memory, DVD rental service Redbox has been bought by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, the parent company of the long-running series of Chicken Soup… self-help books. Deadline reports that Chicken Soup for the Soul is purchasing the familiar red self-service kiosks for an estimated $375 million, a large portion of which is acquiring Redbox’s sizable debt. The DVD rental service has been struggling in recent months; after going public in 2021, its stock price eventually rose to $15 a share. It has recently bottomed out at $1.61, which could not possibly make any shareholders happy. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment has been getting into more aspects of multimedia, and this new purchase is just expanding their bewildering diverse empire that much more.
Redbox was founded in 2002 by McDonald’s, initially as an automated retail service that sold a variety of different products. It was also originally called Ticktok Easy Shop, which just goes to show that even a globally-dominating megacorporation sometimes needs some work in the naming department. Eventually, the idea of convenience store products was jettisoned in favor of DVDs and video games, including a then-novel “return from anywhere” policy that allowed customers to use the kiosk interchangeably to return disks. In 2005, Redbox’s long journey through bizarrely different parent companies began when a large percentage of its ownership was purchased by Coinstar, the coin-counting machine company.
By 2007, Redbox had outpaced Blockbuster in terms of physical locations. By 2013, it accounted for over 50% of the United States’ entire DVD rental industry. Redbox so dominated the DVD rental industry that 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., and Universal Studios all refused to do business with them in fear of their effect on studio DVD sales. Disney still does not do business with them directly, which just shows how powerful of a force Redbox once was. Redbox eventually acquired its former competitor Blockbuster, which may have been its peak as a business. DVD rental sales reached their height in 2014 and began to steadily drop off from there. In 2021, their annual revenue fell a staggering 50% after several consistent years of steadily lowering sales.
On the other half of the current strange Redbox sale situation: Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment began with the original Chicken Soup for the Soul self-help book in 1993. It was co-authored by motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, who continued to collaborate on sequels and eventually, specifically demographically targeted titles in the series. As of 2020, the Chicken Soup series has over a staggering 250 titles. Canfield and Hansen sold Chicken Soup for the Soul to a company headed by William J. Rouhana and Robert D. Jacobs, which rapidly began expanding into non-book products. Fittingly, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment sells a line of prepared soups, sauces, and pet foods. It also owns the popular streaming service Crackle (which it purchased from Sony), as well as Popcornflix and several original content production and distribution companies.