The Package: Cuba’s New Film and Series Rental Option

Luis Rondon Paz

HAVANA TIMES — “Did you hear?” A neighbor of mine asked me.

“About what?” I replied, curious.

“Dude, about the new service the people who make the “package” are offering. Remember how some would bring you the whole package for you to copy whatever you wanted?”

“Yes, I remember. What’s new with that?”

“What’s new! Here, in Santiago de las Vegas [on the outskirts of the capital], self-employed computer experts launched El Paquetazo…”

“And that is…”

“They offer much more than the basic service (the weekly package) for you to copy the stuff you want. They rent out cheap USB drives to people who don’t have them. It’s a bit like the old times, when we had VHS rentals. The difference is that, here, you go to the place, pay in advance and leave your personal information on file.”

I had to satisfy my curiosity about this new home rental business, so I set out to find out more about it.

As it turns out, I didn’t have to go far. I left my house, walked a few blocks and, a stone’s throw away from the town Church, heading up Calle 2, to the left, I saw a sign that spoke for itself. What my neighbor had told me was true. I immediately went in to find out more about this innovative initiative.

When I entered the locale, I was greeted by a young woman who kindly asked me to wait for a few minutes (as they were preparing a selection of materials for a customer). Shortly afterwards, she asked me to near the computer to make the selection I wanted to copy onto my flash drive.

While copying the videos onto my portable memory device, I took the liberty of asking about their USB memory rentals and how the service worked. She informed that the service is only offered people who live in Santiago de las Vegas. “For the price of 25 Cuban pesos, we draw up a formal contract through which we rent out a 16-Gb memory stick with the materials selected by the customer,” she added.

As the conversation unfolded, I found out that, for less than 50 Cuban pesos, I could copy 1 Tera of information (a week’s worth of materials). The young woman also stressed that the USB memory rental is not the only novel thing about their business, that, when they sell a hard-disk, they include the weekly package for free, to offer a kind of guarantee that the device is working properly.

When our conservation ended, I noticed the materials (for a total of 10 Cuban pesos) had all been copied onto my portable device. I paid for the service and headed home, thinking about the new service and the prices the State charges for the decoders used to get digital TV in Cuba [$45 to 57 usd].

It is already undeniable that innovation in Cuba’s private sector, coupled with the use of new technologies, has overtaken and left the audiovisual offer of the State sector behind. It remains to be seen what lies in store for El Paquetazo, the new option for renting films, series and other kinds of digital information. Like my neighbor jokingly says:

“Luisi, let me introduce you to the portable version of Cuban digital television, with the advantage that you can previously choose what you want to watch.”