Video Ezy commenced trading in 1983, when Kevin Slater opened his first store in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville renting out a small selection of VHS and Betamax format movies. The first franchised store opened in September 1984 at Miranda. The franchisees at Miranda were Peter McLaughlin and Bill Coe. Other stores to open in quick succession were in the Sydney suburbs of Bankstown, Liverpool and Chatswood. In the majority of these stores, Kevin funded 50% of the capital required to open. By 1986, Video Ezy comprised 18 stores, and by August 1987, there were 34 stores located across New South Wales and Queensland. Expansion followed throughout other Australian states before opening its first international location in Auckland, New Zealand in 1988, with the Master Licence commencing in 1991 under Video Ezy International. In March 1999, Video Ezy Australasia Pty Ltd expanded into the Asian market with its first outlet opening in Bangkok, Thailand.
In late 2000, Video Ezy introduced EzyRetail, a video store specific point of sale Windows-based system exclusively used by Video Ezy. The software was first developed by Radek Soucek and Robert Gongorra and allowed information to be centrally created and pushed down the line to stores, both as real-time and locally stored data. It provided comprehensive reporting capabilities, inventory management and collection abilities, giving the store network one of the most comprehensive databases in retail history. This new system replaced VideoMinder, a then DOS-based system once used by Blockbuster and some older Video Ezy franchisees.
In 2001, the first Video Ezy outlet opened in Singapore within the Jelita Shopping Centre. Since then, the Singapore network has comprised a mixture of corporate-owned and franchised stores located in either outdoor shopping strips like, Holland Village, residential towers such as, International Plaza, or large shopping centres such as, VivoCity. Unlike Australia, Video Ezy Singapore can operate in most shopping centres due to 7-day-week late night shopping hours and its population less reliant on private automobiles needing to park outside stores.
In 2003, Video Ezy sold its corporate-owned stores in Australia leaving only 2 stores–Narellan and Rosehill, some 10 minutes from its new Head Office at Rhodes–although in 2006 it had acquired additional corporate-owned stores. In 2003, Video Ezy also went on to market a subscription model with DVD Unlimited (not associated with the New Zealand company with the same name). Also in that year, Video Ezy commenced selling and renting 'Ezy Exclusive' TV series and movies on DVD such as, Dinotopia, Kingpin, Will & Grace, Taken, The Believer and other exclusive titles from Hallmark Entertainment and NBC. These titles were usually branded with Video Ezy's logo and carried slightly different artwork to DVDs sold outside the Region 4 market ('Ezy Exclusives' were phased out in 2006).
In August 2005, business partners, Paul Uniacke and Edward Nedelko - who between them owned 24 Video Ezy franchises in Victoria - purchased the shares held in Video Ezy Australasia Pty Ltd by Perpetual Trustees and Ivany Investments to become majority shareholders in the company. They replaced Robert Maidment as Executive Chairman. At that stage Video Ezy-branded outlets numbered, 560 in Australia, 156 in New Zealand, 128 in Thailand, 135 in Indonesia, 19 in Singapore, 9 in Malaysia, 1 in Fiji and 1 in the United Arab Emirates.
In February 2007, Blockbuster, seeking to rationalise its international operations and concentrate on its home United States market, sold its entire Australian store network to Video Ezy Australasia Pty Ltd. At the time, Blockbuster Australia comprised 370 outlets nationwide - 29 owned by the company and 341 owned by franchisees. Video Ezy had 518 Australian outlets, all of them being owned by franchisees, pushing the combined group's market share to 40% of the country's video rental sector. Video Ezy committed to the master franchise agreement with Blockbuster for 10 years operating the brand with the possibility of renewal for a further 10 years after that. As a consequence of the deal, the company changed its name from Video Ezy Australasia Pty Ltd to Franchise Entertainment Group.
In January 2009, Franchise Entertainment Group bought failed video retail (non-rental) chain, EzyDVD from receivers, Ferrier Hodgson, for an estimated $10 million. The transaction included, the EzyDVD brand and online business, the 25-store franchise network, in addition to stock, plant, equipment and the remaining 11 company-owned stores. FEG CEO Paul Uniacke said to the media after the deal, "We don't have video rental stores in high-traffic areas such as the major malls because you can't rent a DVD and the next day just easily park your car and return to it. The EzyDVD stores are in all the major mall chains and this cements us well and truly in this market." Soon after, EzyDVD's head office, warehouse and distribution facility in Torrensville closed, and currently (as of October 2012), only 3 branded stores remain in Launceston, Browns Plains and Elizabeth. Most of its sales are now generated from the website.
In August 2010, Paul Uniacke and Edward Nedelko's other company, Surrealus, bought the failed entertainment group, Stomp Entertainment (which included the Australian operations of Play4Me and CD WOW!) for an undisclosed sum. By October that year, Surrealus had reorganised Stomp and given it a new name - Élan Media Partners. Uniacke and Nedelko also arranged for the transfer of the Video Ezy Australia, Blockbuster Australia and EzyDVD online businesses from FEG to Élan Media Partners, leaving FEG to manage the franchise relationships with individual Video Ezy/Blockbuster outlets and the three remaining EzyDVD-branded stores.
In May 2011, a new loyalty card branded as Flash Rewards was introduced by Video Ezy (superseding DVD Unlimited), offering customers who sign-up and pay a fee, discounts and extended services in all participating Video Ezy stores. This allows customers to upgrade their basic rental membership, with Paul Uniacke adding, "when someone joins Flash Rewards, they can then rent from any participating Video Ezy store and access their Flash benefits without the need to sign up with each store every time." In addition, Flash Rewards offered discounts from partner companies such as, Donut King, Eagle Boys Pizza, AMF Bowling, Anytime Fitness, ACP Magazines, and 25% off cinema ticket prices at, Village Cinemas, Event Cinemas/Greater Union/Birch Carroll & Coyle, Hoyts, Reading Cinemas, Wallis Cinemas, Dendy, and Palace Cinemas. However, the deals involving outside partner companies ended in early 2013.
In June 2011, a select group of Video Ezy/Blockbuster franchises incorporated Metcash's Lucky 7 convenience stores stocking more than 500 different products including, newspapers, bread, milk and various snacks. If deemed successful, Lucky 7 could roll out nationally across Video Ezy and Blockbuster's 650 store network.
In October 2011, it was announced that former chief executive of Video Ezy and their largest franchisee, Daryl McCormack, would partner his 15 stores with Franchised Food Company's Cold Rock Ice Creamery to open smaller, Express oulets within stores becoming dual franchises. The first Video Ezy/Cold Rock Express outlet reopened in Kew, Melbourne, to dollar-for-dollar sales with the core business of video rental and retail. This concept has also extended to McCormack's co-owned chain, Souvlaki Hut (now Souv Hut), with point-of-sale systems being updated to combine sales from both video and ice cream, or souvlaki meals and ice cream. Like the Lucky 7 deal before it, Franchised Food Company is offering Cold Rock Express outlets to other Video Ezy/Blockbuster franchisees wishing to diversify their business.
In November 2011, Video Ezy found itself embroiled in a social media backlash when it refused to end its long-term sponsorship with Southern Cross Austereo's networked radio program, Take40 Australia, after its co-host, Kyle Sandilands made sexist comments about a News Limited journalist on his 2Day FM breakfast program, The Kyle and Jackie O Show. Even though the comments were made on another program and Video Ezy having the added complication of being a naming rights sponsor of Take40 Australia, complaints piled up on its Facebook page to such an extent that after a month the brand was forced to pull advertising from the show temporarily during the summer. Sandilands was removed as co-host of Take40 Australia during this period, and Video Ezy continues to sponsor the program.
In December 2011, Franchise Entertainment Group switched on its first Video Ezy Express DVD and Blu-ray rental kiosk after announcing their roll-out in May that year. FEG bought 1,000 DVD kiosks through US company, NCR Corporation for $2 million with Uniacke adding, "we're looking to get to 3,000 within three years. I'm looking to own the market within a two-year period." Video Ezy Express kiosks can be purchased from FEG by local Video Ezy/Blockbuster franchisees and located in high foot-traffic areas like shopping centres and supermarkets. For these franchisees, overheads are low as rent for 2m×2m blocks of space is significantly less than shops with large floor space. There are no staff wages to pay and once the system is set up, they are self-sufficient. For consumers, prices to rent are much lower, no membership cards are required, there are no late fees (just a nightly flat rate. Video Ezy/Blockbuster Express currently competes in Australia and New Zealand with the 300+ Hoyts Kiosk network. They also competed with approximately 100 RedRoom kiosks for the first month until FEG acquired the entire seven-year-old business, taking out a significant competitor while adding capacity.
In 1993, the Get it first time, or get it free was launched. Video Ezy re-launched their guarantee under the "Movie Guarantee" umbrella in April 2007. This includes Rental Guarantee, Price Guarantee and an Ex-Rental Guarantee.
Video Ezy utilises rent-only releases with the "Rent It - The Only Way To Get It" campaign. Another advertising campaign used by Video Ezy is "Upsize Your Entertainment" - when a consumer rents a specific title they have the opportunity to upsize by buying a specified similar title for only $4.95–in April 2007, Video Ezy had Charlotte's Web as the rental title & Paulie as the upsize title.
Slogans include:"In the Mood" (1990s)
"Ezy does it" - (October 2003–present)
"The choice is Ezy" (2000s)
"Get it first time, or get it free" - Defunct, being re-released in April 2007.
"We have so many copies of our Rental Guarantee title, we guarantee you'll rent it now, or rent it free" - Video Ezy Rental Guarantee as of April 2007.
"Love Movies" - (2009–present).
"More to Love" - Current Australia slogan expanded from "Love Movies" to be more inclusive of other products in store.
"We heart movies" - Current New Zealand slogan since November 2009.
"Rent it. Buy it." - Current Singapore slogan.
In 2000, Video Ezy launched its Fight Back campaign, using slogans such as "Sick of low interest rates? - bank on cheap entertainment with Video Ezy. Due to the franchise nature of Video Ezy stores, each store runs their own promotions and set their own pricing.
The company established a training facility in 2006 to develop staff expertise. They had previously worked with a company called Rascals which promoted the use of Australian Workplace Agreements.
In its home market of Australia, Video Ezy's individual franchises compete with other rental chains such as, Blockbuster, Civic Video, Network Video, Video City, Movies 4U (also known as, Top Video, or Leading Edge Video) and many independently-branded stores throughout the country. Franchises also compete with rental-by-mail and instant streaming service, Quickflix. Video Ezy dominates the New South Wales market, however, in other Australian states like Queensland, it has a similar number of stores to rival, Civic Video, and in Tasmania, its chain of Video City oulets are more numerous and larger in floor space. Since February 2007, Video Ezy's parent company, Franchise Entertainment Group, no longer competes with Blockbuster having acquired it, yet all individual franchises still do.
In the area of video and gaming retail, Video Ezy also competes with many of the brands mentioned above, but primarily Australia's DVD, Blu-ray and gaming disc market share is taken up by Kmart, Target, Big W, Sanity, JB Hi-Fi, EB Games, and Amazon.com. However, recent years have seen huge movements towards legal and illegal online entertainment in the form of legal services such as, iTunes, or illegal BitTorrent downloads that continue to challenge Video Ezy's established business model. This is reflected in Video Ezy/Blockbuster franchises closing 270 stores across Australia in the four years to August 2011, and Video Ezy's Indonesian franchises shutting 60 outlets in the two years to January 2013. Even some Australian regional centres such as Lithgow and Berri have recently lost their only full scale video libraries when Video Ezy/Blockbuster franchises have closed.
In March 2013, Franchise Entertainment Group's CEO, Paul Uniacke told Sunshine Coast Daily in response to a local Maroochydore outlet closing that, "I'm not happy that Maroochydore has gone. It's not something we like to see, absolutely there is a human cost to what's happening here." He went on to add, "the worst thing that happens in a rationalisation is losing stores and losing good people. We've been up on the Coast with Blockbuster for a number of years and with Video Ezy for about 20 years." Uniacke said that Video Ezy/Blockbuster was not alone in facing Australian post-Global Financial Crisis retail conditions, leaving Video Ezy Express rental kiosks to fill the void left by closed stores. He said, "but mark my words, you will see us back in a short space of time. We don't want to leave that territory without the brand too long, we want to stay strong." Adding, "and they are lined up out the door to run kiosks in there, so you will see Blockbuster, or maybe Video Ezy kiosks flowing through there." But in the same interview he admitted, "absolutely we will have less stores, but I don't want to do away with them because they form a valuable part of the business."
In November 2013, responding to Blockbuster US announcing they will shut all their domestic stores, SmartCompany compared Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from financial year 1999–2000 stating there were 1166 individual video hire businesses operating within Australia; compared to a 2013 IBISWorld study finding just 255 DVD rental businesses still operating in the country (a drop of almost 80%). The same study found the overall industry has declined at an annual rate of 14.8% over the five years to 2013. In addition to the obvious competition and threats to rental businesses, it also blamed recent developments from Pay TV and free-to-air television, both radically increasing their channel selections. Another impact stems from the reduced cost of DVD and Blu-ray discs, seeing the average 2013 price of a DVD settle at $16, compared to $20 in the early-2000s. This has acted as a double-edged sword for the industry, boosting the numbers of DVD sales, but also turning renters into buyers.
Video Ezy has stores in the following countries outside Australia:New Zealand - 111 Stores
Thailand - 65 Stores
Indonesia - 64 Stores
Singapore - 15 Stores
Malaysia - 5 Stores