Our recommendations: If you are on a Mac, your only choice is iTunes. For Windows users, Movielink has the deepest catalog, and Guba has the best pricing (they are actually taking a loss on sales). CinemaNow has an outrageously priced burn-to-DVD product that may be attractive to some users (although simply buying the DVD seems to make a lot more sense).
Additional notes: All services except iTunes had rental agreements allowing users to rent a movie for 24hrs from pressing play or 30 days, whichever comes first. The number of movies in catalogs were taken either from company numbers or number of movies accessible on the site (these numbers fluctuate). The top 10 movie rentals drawn from IMDB data were: “The Sentinel”, “Take the Lead”, “Poseidon”, “Friends with Money”, “RV”, “Inside Man”, “Akeelah and the Bee”, “Scary Movie 4”, “Silent Hill”, and “Just My Luck”.
When trying out the services, I found the $0.99 rental from GUBA to be the best choice. It was cheap enough that I didn’t mind spending the time downloading a movie and deleting it after I was finished. Renting from the other services just didn’t seem a fair deal at $2.99 or $3.99 with Blockbuster down the street and Netflix in my mailbox. I can’t believe that most of these services expect me to pay the DVD price for a movie that hogs my hard drive, comes with a highly restrictive license, and sucks up my bandwidth for 1-2 hours of downloading. However, in the long run I choose iTunes as the service to watch. Their catalog is a lot smaller than the other services, but they offer the most value with their digital movies by easily integrating with my iPod and granting me more licenses. For now, I think I’ll continue using DVDs to archive my favorite movies, but rent digital versions of the ones I just want to see once. What I’d really like to see in this category is a digital Netflix service that automatically rents, downloads, and deletes movies from my computer for a flat monthly fee.
Monday, October 16, 2006