Torrenting vs Buying according to the Oatmeal

I love The Oatmeal and this is another perfect way to sum up my views on movie dowloads..

Torrenting vs Buying courtesy of The OatMeal

Torrenting vs Buying courtesy of The OatMeal


Don’t stay out of my territory

I’ve just finished watching Breaking Bad seasons 1&2 on Netflix to find that the third season has yet to air in the UK despite the fourth season having already aired in the US and the fifth and final season being due to air later this year, it’s also not available on physical release presumably the studio are waiting for someone to buy the rights to air it on TV before releasing for physical distribution.

This kind of s**t makes me angry when we have the TV and film studios trying to get the US government to introduce futile laws that aim to impede their customers from trying to enjoy the content that have produced. Yes studio people, they are the customers, they are the people who actually want to watch it, the people who enjoy the programming that you make and commission; they aren’t downloading it to ruin your business or to profit from it – ok a few might be, but they are profiting from the fans who can’t legally get hold of the content that you made for them to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I think copyright theft is bad, I believe that everyone should be paid for what they make/do; my point is that if the content is harder to get legally than it is illegally then people won’t make it hard for themselves. In fact, this tweet sums it up nicely:

I’ve spoken about this before, but it still surprises me that the TV and movie studios have yet to realise what the music industry learnt after requiring DRM on their content for so many years (it was around 5 years after the launch of the iTunes store before DRM was dropped across the board). If it’s easier to get the content people will pay for it. It’s 2012, the problem isn’t a technology one, it’s a human one, it sits with lawyers and executives, the kind of people who don’t have a clue what the internet is and think it’s just for ‘geeks’, the same kind of people that wanted to push SOPA and PIPA through.

It got me thinking that if the UK’s TV channels weren’t going to license the films or tv shows that some many people want to watch, maybe it could be possible to crowd-fund the licensing of this kind of content in a kickstarter fashion. If a streaming service was set up in such a way that all interested parties could register their commitment to certain TV shows and movies and agree an amount that they would be willing to pay to watch it, maybe we could buy it as a cooperative and then stream it beyond that point. Although the problem here is timing, I imagine it would take much longer to get enough interested parties and then negotiate the license agreements with the studios in which time everyone has got it quicker off of MegaUpload BTJunkie Pirate Bay. I’m interested in hearing people’s thoughts on this idea though.

And for those that haven’t seen Breaking Bad it’s well worth watching

Lovefilm vs. Netflix vs. Sky Movies vs. Blinkbox

I love watching movies. I could quite happily sit and watch 2 or 3 back to back on a Sunday as long as the F1 isn’t on. I’ve been a Sky Movies subscriber since getting Sky about 5 years ago and was always pretty satisfied with the service. In late 2010 Sky launched a partnership with Xbox which changed the game completely as it meant I now had access to 100’s of on demand movies at no extra cost.

The improvements to the Xbox dashboard released in December (2011) to include apps from third party movie streaming services such as Blinkbox, Lovefilm and as of today Netflix has drawn to my attention to the possibility that I could get rid of my £16 per month Sky Movies Subscription if it could replace the quality of service currently offered by Sky. Whilst the £4.99/£5.99 price point seems pretty convincing I was interested to see exactly what movies each of the services had available and which movies they were missing. In a recent article I read that Netflix had negotiated exclusivity deals on new movies with Lionsgate and MGM so it would be interesting to see how much the catalogues actually differed.

I don’t have time to do a full cross reference (although I was tempted to script something up to scrape them) so I’ve chosen a selection of more recent films that I know have been made available for online streaming and a selection of much older films. I have checked each film on Sky Go, Lovefilm and Netflx as well as on Blinkbox which is not a subscription service but I thought was a useful comparison for streaming library completeness. I have ignored Lovefilm offerings where they are available on DVD but not for instant streaming.

Lovefilm Netflix Sky Movies
Blinkbox (pay per view)
New/Recent Movies
Super 8 NO NO YES YES(£3.49)
Cowboys and Aliens NO NO NO * YES(£3.49)
Rise of Plant of the Apes NO NO NO * YES(£3.49)
Twliight NO NO YES YES (£1.99)
Harry Potter (8) YES(£3.49) NO NO * YES(£3.49)
The Hangover YES NO NO ** YES (£2.49)
The Hangover 2 YES(£3.49) NO NO ** YES(£3.49)
Four Lions YES NO NO** NO
Old Movies
Harry Potter (1) NO NO NO ** YES (£2.49)
Plant of the Apes (1968) YES NO NO NO
The Godfather NO NO YES YES(£1.99)
The 39 Steps NO YES NO YES (FREE)
Blair Witch Project NO YES NO NO
Home Alone NO NO YES NO
Being John Malkovich YES YES YES NO
An American Werewolf in London NO YES NO YES(FREE)
Unlimited Streaming Subscription Price per month £9.99 £5.99 £16.00
* available on demand. £3.99 each
** were previously available

As we can see Netflix has pretty poor coverage at the moment compared to Lovefilm in terms of newer releases while Netflix seems to be better in terms of back catalogue. Out of the three subscription services Sky has the best coverage across the board, one limitation of the Sky Go service is the total number of movies that they have available at any one time which does change regularly, I have marked those movies which I know that I have watched on Sky Go on my Xbox previously. The Blinkbox pay per view model would work out expensive to watch 10-15 movies a month although they do have a large selection of free movies available – the quality of which does vary. Blinkbox also announced today that they were making streaming available for free on some titles if you buy the DVD in Tesco stores and provide your clubcard details (Tesco own Blinkbox).

I’m not planning on moving away from Sky yet, but it will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few months and whether Netflix start to strengthen their catalogue with more studio deals. Meanwhile Lovefilm’s new owner, Amazon, will be sure to strengthen their streaming business in light of the Kindle Fire potentially getting a UK release later this year.

UPDATE – Blinkbox have got in touch to say that some of the movies that were marked as unavailable are actually available. I’ve updated those that are available to stream (some are only available to purchase)

It’s Google Music … oh, no it’s Movies

The press has been awash with details of the Google music service since late last night. Predictions have been around the introduction of an unlicensed cloud locker service that allows users to upload 50GB of music for free. Just announced now at Google IO was something that no one had predicted, Movies.

Google have just announced a Google Movies service within the marketplace in the next few weeks that allows users to link movie rentals to their Google account meaning that they can rent anywhere and watch anywhere. Works online, on tablets and on mobiles.

Users will be able to “pin” movies to a device to allow them to watch offline when out of streaming range. Rentals will cost about $2 and be standard streaming rental terms of 30 days (reduced to 24 hours after first viewing commences).

Amazon Prime to include free streaming – another signal of impending hardware launch?

Amazon have announced that they are to offer free unlimited streaming movie and TV show to Prime customers in the US . The are offering about 5000 videos including many of the usual TV series, The Sopranos, The Office, Friends etc. The movies aren’t big new hits but do contain some fairly recent releases.  Non of this is new to Amazon though, they have had the Unbox service for some time (now rebranded as Video on Demand) which has the big hits for rental, but this is a great way to introduce some new customers to that service. The device support is great, there are a lot of supported systems most of which are connected TVs or media centres but they also offer the option of Windows Media so you can stream via a Windows PC or an Xbox.

As I mentioned previously, following the complete acquisition of Lovefilm, Amazon looks to be on the start of a major content play which in my opinion signals them taking a serious step into the world of connected devices.  The signs are all mounting up for an Amazon device to be released or even set of devices:

  • Amazon bought touchscreen technology specialists TouchCo at the start of last year and have previously stated that they weren’t going to integrate these capabilities into the Kindle product line….so where are they planning to use them?
  • Lab126 is the arm of Amazon that developed the Kindle and it’s thought that is where the next generation devices are being designed and built. They have been on a hiring frenzy since last year for engineers.
  • Amazon’s App store is due to launch soon and the developer portal is now open for content submissions. They are planning to run a similar 70:30 split like Apple for developers wanting to sell their apps. Apps will be sold inside the regular Amazon store.
  • The Amazon MP3 store and Kindle bookstore have been around for ages and will be staple additions to any hardware release.

The talk of an Amazon device has gone quiet of late but I wouldn’t be surprised if that rumour mill kicks up again following today’s announcement of an Apple press event on March 2nd – rumoured to be the iPad 2 launch.

Amazon acquire Lovefilm

After being the major shareholder since 2008, Amazon have apparently bought out the remaining shares in a deal thought to value Lovefilm at £312 million.

See Techcrunch Post for more details

I imagine this is part of a content play for Europe in preparation for the rumoured Amazon Android tablet along with their App store which I expect will ultimately become something akin to iTunes.

Rubber Dinghy Rapids

I’m probably amongst the minority of my peers on this but for some time I’ve questioned the actions of those of my friends who regularly risk the potential legal ramifications of torrenting 1000’s of videos and albums every year and who have fallen foul to a plethora of viruses and Trojans from bogus downloads. I’ve not been a fan of pirating since my days at university when Napster was all new and the talk of the web and even less so since I took up camp at the 7digital offices where piracy is obviously one of our biggest competitors alongside messrs Jobs and Bezos. I certainly don’t advocate the theft of copyrighted material, it puts my job at risk, but after this weekend I’ve begun to understand why it happens.

After being reminded that I still hadn’t seen the Chris Morris film Four Lions I went to 3 HMV stores on Saturday but was unable to find it in any of them. I could have ordered it from Amazon but it would have arrived mid week and I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to watching it for weeks. I wanted to watch it that night. It wasn’t available on Zune or SkyPlayer on the XBox so I had a look round a few sites online but nowhere would allow me to buy it and then stream it to my TV through the Xbox 360 due to the DRM or requirement to use proprietary software. So I chose to torrent it.

The movie downloaded in around 20mins and the torrent client I chose, Vuze, has a DNLA client to allow me to stream it directly to my Xbox with no intervention – it even automatically converts it into the right format if necessary. The endless choice, ease and speed of the process makes it so effortless – if I could have that same service and pay for it I definitely would.

With the number of connected devices in the average household increasing and the advent of connected TV sets we need better licensed services in the UK that are simple for the average non technical person to use and made available on these platforms. I’m pleased to see Sky and Lovefilm have already taken a step into console integration with their movie services on XBox 360 and PS3 respectfully. There’s iTunes too, but you need an Apple TV device to play through your TV.   Outside of movies there are several good services (iPlayer, Seesaw and Skyplayer) but again they are only usable through a web browser. These existing services also need to look to make their content available through more platforms like Boxee and Roku so that they are simple plug and play services.

DISCLAIMER: I am actually now going to buy Four Lions from Amazon, it would have been better to be able to pay the studio, Optimum Releasing, directly with some form of honesty box system though.

Oh and the title of this blog post is taken from a quote in the movie and for those of you that haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend that you watch it, it’s laugh out loud funny all the way through.