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
Con Air YES YES YES 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
N/A
* 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)

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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.