I am not yet a father, but one day I am going to tell my future children about what it was like the to go to the local video store and rent a movie. I am quite certain that they will note able to fathom such a concept. Most children under the age of 10 right now might not be able to remember renting a movie. The world changed very quickly and the video store went the way of the DoDo bird.
In the past you used to have to worry about what movie you were going to rent, now you are faced with the choice of how to rent it. Netflix may have started the by mail/ streaming rental business, but others were quick to follow. RedBox, Microsoft, and Amazon have all entered the fray, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. With so many variables it can be hard to know what the best choice might be for your needs. I will break down each option to highlight what the positives and possible negatives of each might be. I will weigh each selection with the assumption that you are interested in watch your movies in high def.
- Netflix - When people first heard about the idea of mailing DVD’s people’s homes they wondered if it was even possible. Now Netflix mails out nearly 2,000,000 discs every day. I have been a member since 2003 and although I get annoyed every time they raise the price I am still a faithful customer. I have a steaming account and a mailing account, 2 discs at a time. For all of this I pay $24.27, including tax. Strengths: I can watch as many films as I can stream or mail back. Weaknesses: Waiting for discs, new releases take a while to make it to Netflix, and I feel like I am wasting money whenever I wait more then 3 days to mail back a disc. Who is this best for? People or families that watch tons of movies and TV shows, heavy users.
- RedBox - These little vending machines came on the scene few years ago and spread like wild fire. You can usually find them at super markets and 7/11’s. Rentals cost $1.63 per disc and you can rent one whenever you like. Strengths: Cheap cost. Weaknesses: You have to drive(or walk) to get them, you can be charged a late fee if you fail to return it, and the new releases take a while to arrive. Who is this best for? People who rent occasionally and don’t want to commit to a subscription.
- Xbox MarketPlace – Video gaming consoles aren’t just for games any more. Sharing photos, streaming video, these things are full blown media centers. As a result Microsoft has a very impressive video delivery system. You can buy or rent films using Microsoft points. For 50 bucks you can buy 4000 points and an HD rental usually costs 480 points. I dislike this system because I feel like it is a deliberate attempt to obscure the price which is about $5.50 if you do the math. This is pretty high for my tastes. Strengths: New release show up fast, right now you can rent “Argo”, you will sill have to wait two weeks for this title to show up at Netflix or Redbox. Since it is steaming you also never have to worry about it being out of stock and you don’t have to wait for your movie to arrive or go and get it. Another nice feature that Microsoft offers is the ability to watch a trailer for the movie you are thinking about renting and in some cases they let you watch the first 10 minutes of the film to see if you like it. Weaknesses: Cost, per movie it’s the highest of the four. Who is this best for? People who just can’t wait to see the newest releases, groups who can split the high rental cost.
- Amazon Instant Video – I have been shopping with and following Amazon for a very long time, when they do something they go big. This is the case with their “Instant Video”. They offer free steaming movies as part of their “Amazon Prime” bundle which includes free two day shipping and free kindle book rentals. They also offer you the option to buy or rent a digital copy of the film. Most films rent for $3.99. Strengths: Just like Xbox, Amazon gets new releases early and they stream them to you instantly. They also offer you the ability to watch trailers and the steaming library is voluminous. Weaknesses: Although Amazon’s rental price is much cheaper than Xbox’s it is still much more expensive then RedBox. How much is convenience worth to you? Who is this best for? Frequent Amazon shoppers who like the speed of streaming and don’t want to wait for new releases.
Looking at the bigger picture, let’s say you rent 7 films a month, here is how each company stacks up annually:
- Netflix: At $24.27 a month it would be $291. 24 for the year.
- RedBox: At $1.63 per rental it would be $11.41 per month, $136.92 for the year.
- XBox MarketPlace: At $5.50 per rental it would be $38.50 per month, $462.00 for the year.
- Amazon Instant Video: If you purchased Amazon Prime and streamed 3 movie and rented 4: $80 for Amazon Prime, at $3.99 per rental is would be $15.96 per month or $271.51 for the year.
In this scenario “RedBox” may be the cheapest, but “Amazon Instant Video” seems to offer the best value.