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UPD UK Comparison of Broadband Movie Download and Web Streaming Services

Thursday, April 12th, 2012 (2:04 am) - Score 19,590
broadband internet video and movie streaming

We have also excluded iTunes from our comparison because it’s not really a web based solution (needs dedicated iTunes software), can be quite expensive and prefers specific Apple devices (e.g. Macs, iPads and iPhones). Likewise we excluded Cackle, a free service, because its content selection was tiny and most of the flicks seemed to be.. rubbish. On the other hand we did find cult classic “Street Fighter” ™, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, on Cackle (only cult because it was so.. terrible).

The following comparison is in an unordered list.

LOVEFiLM Instant

Type: Unlimited Streaming, Streaming Rental (PPV / Pay Per View)
Video Streaming Quality: Standard Definition (SD)
Stable Broadband Speed Required: 2Mbps+
Platform Support: PC, Mac, iPad, XBox 360, PS3, Internet TV’s (Sony, Samsung etc.) and more..
Price: £4.99 Monthly (Streaming – excludes PPV “Box Office” titles @ £0.99 to £3.49 per film)
Streaming Technology: Microsoft Silverlight

LOVEFiLM is one of the country’s most well established movie rental services and recently moved into the realm of video streaming. It offers an unlimited service (14 day free trial) from just £4.99 per month (apparently this is an “introductory” price) that delivers an extremely strong selection of movies (about 6,500), including top titles like ‘Source Code’. It also covers TV shows but most appear to be from the UK (see the free alternatives mentioned earlier).

The website is strong and feels like a community with useful customer reviews and comments. But it might surprise some people to learn that LOVEFiLM separates a large chunk (around 1,000+ movies) of its catalogue into a Pay Per View (PPV) model of rental “Box Office” releases.

As a result customers can expect to pay up to £3.49 to stream recent “Box Office” releases like Real Steel or Fright Night (£3.49 each), but bizarrely this even includes old flicks like ‘300’ for £2.49. This seems almost pointless and confusing when you can buy the feature rich DVD for a similar cost. The lack of HD quality streaming is also a frustration.

Knowhow Movies (Dixons Retail)

Type: Streaming Rental, Streaming Buy
Video Streaming Quality: Standard Definition (SD), High Definition (HD)
Stable Broadband Speed Required: 1.5-3Mbps+
Platform Support: PC, Mac [TBA – Smartphones, Tablets, Internet TVs, PS3, XBox 360]
Price: £2.99 – £3.99 (Per Film) Pay Per View
Streaming Technology: RoxioNow (Rovi)

Knowhow Movies is the new kid in town and bases its model around a mix of streaming rentals (PPV) and streaming buys (you keep the film). Its catalogue feels smaller and the hugely simplified website lacks features (e.g. a community and better navigation choices), although a lot of the releases were pleasingly quite new. Oddly some films, such as the Kings Speech and Fright Night, were only available to buy outright (£12.99) and not rent.

We did some digging and discovered both ‘300’ and ‘Real Steel’ for £2.99 (rental), which in the latter case is cheaper than LOVEFiLM. Knowhow Movies also claims to support HD video quality, which gives them a slight advantage over some of their rivals.


Type: Unlimited Streaming
Video Streaming Quality: Standard Definition (SD), High Definition (HD)
Stable Broadband Speed Required: 0.5Mbps (512Kbps) – 5Mbps
Platform Support: PC, Mac, Wii, PS3, XBox 360, Smartphones, Tablets, Internet TVs
Price: £5.99 Monthly
Streaming Technology: Microsoft Silverlight

Netflix is another new arrival in the UK and also offers an unlimited streaming subscription model for £5.99 a month. Unfortunately its catalogue of movies (1,000+) is smaller than LOVEFiLM and most of the “Recently Added” flicks tended to be a few years old, with the occasional exception (e.g. Blitz, The Expendables etc.). Happily some of the movies support HD video quality.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Stuart

    I have tried Love Film, NetFlix USA & NetFlix UK.

    For me NetFlix USA wins hand down. Good selection of content, and HD streaming is excellent. Being rate-adaptive, it looks almost 8-bit like for a few seconds, and then gradually ramps up, to “X-High/HD”, which is their 1080i format.

    NetFlix UK didn’t have much content when I looked at it.

    LoveFilm is ok on content (if you like mostly films), but the user interface is not a patch on Netflix, and only SD. I find the picture quality can be poor sometimes too, on some titles.

  2. Avatar Deduction

    All the pay PER FILM services are utter garbage, low bitrate video that looks blocky on a large screen TV and 9/10 times only stereo sound at best.

    Ive tried all which are mentioned in this news item and more not mentioned such as film4od (which ironically in picture quality terms compared to some mentioned is alot better it doesnt buffer as much as some either, just a shame their selection is small).

    If you really must go for a pay PER FILM service then i recommend people get a sky or virgin sub and pay per film from that, or buy a ps3 or xbox 360 and pay per film on those devices. The picture quality and sound is vastly (AND I MEAN VASTLY) superior to any of the pay per film services mentioned and cost per film is about the same. (though obviously with sky and virgin you have to pay a monthly fee also, so a ps3 or xbox may be better). The other downside is the time they will take to download if you have a slow connection and silly DRM limits on how long you have to view them before it magically vanishes from your box.

    If you want a “online” service you may as well go for lovefilm or netflix, the quality is about the same (low bitrate dvd like at best) as all the pay per film services mentioned but you will be able to watch a lot more for your money.

    Its a shame the UK is still playing catchup in the movie streaming stakes, i suspect until we start seeing services that use more than a piddly 2-5Mb bandwidth which most of them do, many will just stick to torrents and a 10gig MKV file.

  3. Avatar Daniel

    Lol i noticed that Lovefilm affiliate link 😛

  4. Don’t you need a VPN or Proxy for Netflix USA, which adds to the cost?

    • Avatar Stuart

      Yes you need a VPN. About £3 extra. If you want the highest bitrate, you will need a router that can handle it. My regular netgear was not up to it.

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