With the news that Netflix is heading to the UK, we decided to take a look at the online offerings from current film rental sites, like Lovefilm and AceTrax. Are you disappointed by their poor back catalogues?
What we found was a selection of services that failed to offer a competent online experience. The range of films on offer and the lack of any real competitive pricing proves that the UK online rental scene is ripe for a shake-up. Hopefully, the American film rental service Netflix can do just this.
Where are the classics?
One of the most disappointing aspects of current online rental sites is the lack of a decent back catalogue. Think of a classic film, be it The Godfather, Citizen Kane, or Blade Runner, and it will probably be almost impossible to find them to rent online.
While most modern films are easily accessible, these older titles seem to have been pushed aside when it comes to streaming. In fact, when we searched for rentals of IMDB.com’s top 10 films of all time, only a couple were available on the sites we checked.
All these films are readily available as disc rentals, so why are movie fans being let down when it comes to online streaming?
The lack of classic film choice harks back to the bricks and mortar video stores of the 80s. It wasn’t too unusual to make a trip to your local rental store to take out Gremlins, only to come back disappointed with a VHS of Animal Olympics – either because someone else had taken it out or the store was too small to stock it.
In the world of digital distribution, these issues simply do not apply.
Stagnant rental pricing
Moreover, pricing is barely competitive across UK rental sites. Let’s say you wanted to watch Thor. It would cost you £3.49 to rent from AceTrax, BlinkBox, Sky Go and iTunes. Or £3.99 from Virgin Media.
Where’s the variance? Of course, sites like LoveFilm offer unlimited streaming on a monthly subscription of around a tenner, but its online selection is still poor. Thor wasn’t available to stream for example and, even if it was, LoveFilm’s pricing structure would also price it at £3.49.
If Netflix can offer titles at aggressive prices and under cut its competitors, it will hopefully stimulate this rather stagnant streaming pricing structure.
Online film rentals needs an upgrade
The fate of media consumption, be it film, music or games is undoubtedly moving towards a digital future. However, for this to succeed, we need more choice, both in content and price.
Even if you prefer your films on disc, and don’t mind waiting for a physical copy to pop through your letterbox, there’s no doubt that the future will be far more reliant on digital content.
With this in mind, online film rental services must improve and offer us a larger range of titles, especially when it comes to the classics. If they don’t, there’s chance that the rise of digital distribution could be set back, or people might simply turn to the darker corners of the internet to find their films for free.