In the beginning, there was video rental. You could pay afdah a visit to your favorite location, either a standalone establishment or a corner of your grocery store, pay a few dollars, and return home to enjoy a movie on your VHS or Betamax (remember those?) VCR.
Then came DVDs. Movie renting became more popular, standalone rental stores could be found every few miles, and since they couldn’t offer a large enough selection, the local supermarkets pretty much got out of the movie rental business.
The home movie-watching market took a leap forward when the cable industry began to offer “Video on Demand.” Now you could choose a movie, view it at your leisure, have it charged to your monthly cable bill, and never need to leave your house. In exchange for this convenience, you were offered a much more limited selection than you would have if you got in your car and drove to your local video store.
The problem of limited selection was quickly solved, however, with the advent of mail-order movie rental. A subscription to a mail-order movie rental service would allow you to choose from literally tens of thousands of movie titles, set them up in your rental queue, and have them mailed directly to your door. Now, though, the trade-off was time. Once you mailed back the movie you had finished watching, it took a few days for the next one to arrive.
At long last, it looks as though we might have arrived at the ultimate movies-at-home solution: movie downloading. When you download your movies online, your selection is virtually unlimited, your wait time is minimal, and your costs are affordable.
Depending on the online service you choose, there are several methods used to obtain movies online. The first is streaming video. You can stream video either to your computer or to a device attached to your television. You can start to watch your movie almost instantly, and the price is very reasonable… in fact, a few subscription services include unlimited streaming video in your membership package. The one drawback to streaming video is that you can’t save the movie to a DVD or other storage medium and take it with you for watching elsewhere or in the future; you are limited to viewing it on the device to which it is streaming.
Another method used to download movies online is a rental concept. Basically, you can download the movie to a storage device (computer hard drive, TiVo, even an iPod or video game console), and watch it at your convenience. Since you are only “renting” these movies and not purchasing them, they will expire after a specified period. This can vary by service and be anywhere from 24 hours to 30 days.
Finally, it is possible to download complete movies, burn them to DVD, and watch them on your TV, home entertainment center, computer, or anywhere else, just like any movie that you have purchased in a store. Costs for this can vary widely, and you can find movies priced anywhere from what you would pay in a retail store, to “clearance bin” pricing, to membership and subscription plans.