I’ve “taste-tested” three movie download services. What follows is part 1 of a 2-part post comparing my experiences.
I am an unabashed movie fan. My DVD collection is not huge but bigger than most. When my wife and I first signed up for high-speed internet the first order of business was to find a good movie download service. We don’t have cable television so we were hoping this would broaden our entertainment horizons.
The first service we tried was Vongo. Vongo was still in beta back then. We were initially drawn in by the price. The service is subscription based and only costs $9.99 per month. Not bad for unlimited downloads. They also have a pay-per-view service for newer or more premium movies.
We dropped ’em after a couple months because the selection just was not there. It’s hard to believe but we weren’t even watching ten dollars worth of cinema each month. It was actually pretty disappointing. When we started with Vongo, I thought we’d be able to save money by leaving Netflix.
So, a couple of months floated by and we survived on network television and Netflix DVD’s. It was pretty rough not having instant movie gratification! We thought again about cutting Netflix to save the $17.99 each month and I began another search for movie downloads. Legal movie downloads.
At that point I found CinemaNow and Movielink. Also, this was just about the time Amazon released Unbox and iTunes debuted movies so we had lots to choose from. I wanted good selection and decent prices.
The first service we eliminated was iTunes. I liked that I could buy movies in the same way I was already buying music. But they had the worst selection and all their titles were for purchase only. Rentals were important.
Amazon’s Unbox offers rentals as well as purchases. Their prices weren’t even that bad; they tended to be comparable to CinemaNow and Movielink. Amazon was the next to be cut, though, because you need to download their movie player. I’m already cluttering up my computer with huge movie files. I don’t want another piece of software gumming up the works. Plus, I’ve got good media players.
It was the same story with Movielink. Your first movie download includes their movie manager and player. That’s the only way to watch movies. To their credit, they had a very good selection of new movies. Their back list wasn’t too deep, though.
CinemaNow was very similar to Movielink. Rentals and purchases. Comparable selection and pricing. Plus, CinemaNow’s prices tended to be better than Amazon’s. I chose CinemaNow because I didn’t have to download another movie player. I just had to have a new version of Windows Media Player (which I did) and Internet Explorer. OK, I NEVER SAID THEY WERE PERFECT!
I had a couple of problems with CinemaNow. Once, I tossed my IE cookies and lost the ability to “see” the movie I’d just purchased. That means even though I was logged into my account there was no evidence I’d made a purchase. So, I couldn’t download and watch the movie. Another time, I lost my licenses for viewing some other movies when I did a system restore on my laptop. In both cases, CinemaNow’s support was responsive and gave me a coupon to re-purchase the movies. These experiences were annoying but I was satisfied with how they were handled.