Over the recent years, numerous services have sprouted providing broadband users with the opportunity to watch movies on a subscription or rental basis. Standard video stores have almost disappeared as broadband has become faster, and people have taken the opportunity to benefit from the convenience of getting movies on their laptops, PCs and tablets.
Broadband requirements and broadband comparison
The requirements for streaming TV are that you have a sufficiently fast and stable broadband connection. Many services advertise that you require at least 2 megabits per second to achieve uninterrupted viewing. With high definition streams, this could be as high as 5 megabits per second.
If you find that you are not getting the broadband speed you require to watch movies, it may be time for a switch and there are many broadband comparison services available online where you can find out what speeds others in your area are getting.
On top of the speed and stability of the connection, you need to have the requisite data allowances to enable you to do this heavy consumption activity. Streaming a high definition movie could consume a couple of gigabytes of your data allowance, and so you need to have enough allowance to cater for this. I used to watch 3 movies on a Friday and 3 movies on a Saturday, plus all my other internet usage. Just the movies alone, were consuming approximately 50 gigabits of data per month. I had to have an unlimited package in order to cater for this.
Unlimited is not always unlimited
When you are looking for unlimited broadband packages, ensure that you are getting a package that does what it says on the tin. Many packages advertise themselves as unlimited, but actually have user caps that represent what the ISP considers to be a fair usage amount.
With providers such as Talk Talk, there is a cap of 40 gigabytes per month. Different providers have different policies. Companies like Sky have truly unlimited broadband where you can download as much data as you want, and therefore, stream as many movies as you want. When you do a broadband comparison make sure you are comparing like with like.
Enough with the broadband services. Let us have a look at the broadband TV services.
LoveFilm Instant is a streaming rental, pay per view service offering standard definition movies and requiring a 2 megabyte per second connection. There is a broadband 99 per month subscription service and box office movies from 99P to £3.49. Lovefilm was an established business even before they moved into broadband movies and have had great success online. They have one of the largest selection of movies around with around 6,500 titles, and they also offer a 14 day unlimited trial.
On top of the movies, they offer TV shows. It would be good to see more US-based TV shows as presently, most are from the UK, but this isn’t a big deal. The website has a strong community feel and there is a really good support system in place to learn more about different movies.
Quite a few of the movies on Lovefilm, around 1,000 plus, are pay per view, box office style movies. You need to pay an additional fee for these movies. There are also some that you wouldn’t expect to attract additional fees, actually do. Even older films, sometimes, come with a fee.
Certainly, the lack of high definition streaming really is a downside of LoveFilm instant.
Knowhow Movies provides the opportunity to both stream rentals and buy films. They have both standard definition and high definition options requiring 1.5 megabits per second or 3 megabits per second. Prices range between £2.99 and £3.99 for rentals.
The service is relatively new and is based on both rentals and buys as a business model. The available movies are not as broad and wide as LoveFilm, and the range seems a little bit limited. The website is also a bit more basic. Some films are not available to rent and can only be bought, which is a major downside, and films tend to be a little bit more expensive than LoveFilm when we compared them.
NetFlix is a company that has moved from other geographical territories into UK and Ireland. They are advertising heavily on TV and provide a £5.99 per month unlimited streaming service. They have around 1,000 titles, which is therefore, a lot smaller than LoveFilm.
They do offer free trials and are improving all the time. Some of the recently added titles are actually fairly old, but they do offer high definition video quality which is a real bonus. The broadband you require will be about 0.5 megabytes per second for standard definition movies and 5 megabits per second for high definition movies.
The high definition movies are extremely good quality and the audio is good too. The website is very simple. It is difficult to navigate at times and could certainly be better. They do have a number of American TV shows alongside the UK shows, so you can watch Southpark or your Dexter which is a positive for the service.
YouTube is owned by Google and has a streaming service, which includes movie rentals. Most people are familiar with YouTube, most also forget the opportunity to watch streamed movies on there for a fee. Increasingly, the service is becoming popular though as people engage and find the options that they are looking for.
There are both standard definition and high definition movies, and you require about 0.5 megabit per second for the standard definition and 4 megabits per second for the high definition movies. The pay per view films are generally less than £3.49, but some of the top ones are up to £4.49.
The catalogue is not massive, but there are recent films and generally, it is a very good service. The video quality is decent and there are also free films that may surprise and could actually have been in the premium service.
You can watch YouTube movies on just about any device which is great if you are on your tablet, on your smartphone, on your mac or on the move. Searching around can be a bit annoying because you cannot just search the movies, or else you will end up wit a lot of other stuff as well.
BlinkBox has been around for a while now and is priced very similarly to most of the other offerings. Films cost up to £3.49 on pay per view. You can get away with a 0.3 megabit per second for standard definition movies, but ideally, you will need 2 megabits per second. Unfortunately, they do not have high definition movies in their armoury.
In addition, most of the TV shows they offer are from the UK rather than the US, which is a definite downside. There are quite a few recent releases and there is a pretty large catalogue similar to LoveFilm.
This service provides streaming on a pay per view basis with films up to £3.99. Generally, films are around £2.49. Unfortunately, there are no high definition videos. Everything is standard definition. You will require around 2 megabits per second connectivity in order to use a service, and the platforms supported are Macs and PCs. There are not the same diversity as some of the other platforms.
Our top pick
There are a quite a few offerings available on the market, and more are springing up all the time. You can find FilmFour on-demand, Now TV from Sky, Sainsbury entertainment, Google play movies, Ace tracks movies and Picture Box as more recent launches. Many of the services seem to charge more than they have to for older movies.
Nowadays, you can buy movies for about the same as you can rent. For some of these older movies, it seems quite hard to stomach the cost. It is a shame that so many of these services only offer standard definition. It seems like the unlimited subscription services are taking over from the rental services, which is a definite trend in the market.
Out of all the film services at the moment, LoveFilm gets our vote. The website is great, the catalogue is diverse, the support is good, and it is even possible to physically rent movies with them as well.
Just make sure your broadband connection is up to the task and do if needs be do a broadband comparison of providers in your area and go through a switch.
When looking for a great way to relax, Phil Turner sits back with a great movie; it really helps him to unwind. The broadband comparison site Uswitch got him a great deal with really fast download speeds.
Photo credit: Wapster