Wednesday, June 04, 2014

To Stream? Or Not To Stream?

When I first began the Empire 5-star challenge, one of the conundrums facing me was that I had to legally acquire each film to watch. The costs of this challenge was potentially astronomical; at £10 for your average newly released DVD it could be easy to spend in the thousands of pounds.

Streaming is, of course, the logical solution. A simple monthly fee would unlock a huge library of movies, television shows and other media content that can be watched directly through the Internet. It would be downloaded on demand and I could watch it on a huge array of screens, from my projector, to my computer and even on my smartphone.

In fact, the competition for your on-demand money is so high that monthly subscriptions are laughably cheap. Some providers offer free introductions, but even after this at, around £6 per month for an unlimited subscription it is a fantastic price. With 720 hours in a 30 day month and 1.5 hours in your average film, you could stream films around 480 films for just £6. As I say, a fantastic deal.

Of course, that ludicrous analogy would mean you have no sleep and probably an extortionate broadband and electric bill. So, in reality, how good a deal is £5 a month? Well, it's still half of a single newly released DVD, so in that respect it is still not bad. Even if you only watch a film once every 2 months you are still getting your money's worth.

In addition to the cost advantage, streaming brings a host of other benefits. Foremost is that you won't have DVD boxes cluttering your living room. You just need a screen, and a streaming device and an internet connection which is more than likely wireless. Minimalism and technology suddenly go hand in hand.

The other huge benefit of streaming is that it brings smaller films to the masses. On an unlimited subscription, you are far more likely to take a punt on a less well-known movie that you would have passed over in your local store. There are a lot of little gems out there and for that I applaud what streaming can do for the industry.

Yet, as the eagle-eyed visitor will have spotted, my third rule is that each film must be bought as a DVD. I think it is quite easy to conclude that, judging by everything I have just said, I must have more money than sense, hate the film industry, and I must be living in a house propped up by keep cases.

Admittedly, I do have a lot of DVD cases. In fact, I have so many cases that I have taken the security precaution of removing all of the disks from them and putting them in secure storage in case any opportunist decides to take advantage. Yes, it's annoying, but there are still plenty of other reasons why I still won't stream.

First and foremost, by streaming I would find myself at the mercy of a single company. It would require me to adapt my equipment in order to be able to stream, and by setting myself up on just one company, it would make it harder to get out. What happens if that company decides to increase their prices to appease shareholders? I would face the expense of updating or replacing equipment, or simply just accept their price hike.

Because of complicated licencing issues, streaming companies are also limited on their library. So, if a particular company doesn't have the film I want to watch I'd still have to find it on DVD.

If they do have the film, it might be that I want to watch it in High Definition (HD), or possibly even 3D. Lots of companies fail to offer this and, even if they do offer it, there is no guarantee my copper wire broadband will be able to cope with it. In addition, a lot of people have a capped download limit that streaming will quickly fill.

Despite the expense there are still plenty of places to buy physical copies of movies at a reasonable price. If you want the latest and greatest technology, then sure, it'll be expensive. I recently saw Beauty and the Beast on 3D Blu-ray for £45... second hand. That's not an excuse for piracy, mind. Shop around, use second hand shops or online auctions. If it's too expensive then simply just wait until the price drops.

I am proud to be able to say that so far I have been able to locate every single film on DVD from the 5-star 500. Rarely do I spend more than a couple of pounds and only exceptionally have I spent over £10 on the most rare of films. I have also found a whole host of smaller shops selling rarer DVDs online, which are quite often cheaper than going to the mainstream.

Hunting high and low for cheap films even enables me to do a lot of research on a film before I've even watched it. Of course, if you don't have time then streaming is probably the ideal solution. Unfortunately, it's just not for me.


  1. I used to buy a lot of videos and then later, DVD's. When I was working and had the money to do this it was no problem. Consequently I have a sizeable collection of movies--some that have yet to watch. After I went to a much smaller income I stopped buying the movies and began to rethink the concept of owning such a movie collection.

    I watch a movie or two most weeks from Netflix. Almost not worth the $8 per month that I pay, but convenient and less than what I used to pay at the rental store. I usually watch a couple movies per week on the classic film TV station--one of my few justifications for having over-priced satellite TV. I've been rewatching films from my collection at about a rate of one every couple weeks--got a ways to go and I'm not overly enthused about rewatching some of them.

    Streaming would be probably a good option for me if I had the equipment set up to do it this way. I should probably start reading more too. I have hundreds of books that I still haven't read. What I really need to do is find ways to stop spending money on any of these sorts of things and just deal with what I have now. A better option would be to have more income, but that is something I hope for and don't have and if I did have it then that would probably mean I'd be too busy to be watching movies and reading books.

    A conundrum.

    Tossing It Out

  2. Now, that's a monster project. Good for you! And yes, I totally agree that streaming is the way to go. I still buy DVDs from time to time because I'm a sucker but we stream most of what we watch these days.