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Future of DVD Rentals
The next logical progression for the DVD rental market is virtual DVD services which allow you to stream or download films via the web. Rental stores are gradually dying out, postal services are slow, virtual DVD services are the most convenient solution. Now that most people have fast broadband it is possible to stream movies directly to your TV or computer. You can also rent movies via your Xbox 360 console and PS3 already in the US and by the end of the year you’ll be able to get video on demand via your PlayStation 3 in Europe as well.
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There are several services in the US already offering virtual DVDs and while the UK is currently lagging behind there are set to be some developments in the coming months. The supermarket giant Tesco recently announced that they will be offering a virtual DVD service in the UK in partnership with Microsoft in the near future. Based on Silverlight technology the new service will offer consumers the chance to access downloadable movies with full DVD like interactivity and special features just as you would find on a physical disc.
While virtual DVD services are currently limited there are plenty of video on demand services available. The difference is they lack the interactivity and special feature extras and simply allow you to watch the film with the option to pause, rewind and fast forward.
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Cable and Satellite
Providers of cable TV and satellite TV such as Virgin and Sky in the UK already offer video on demand services. There is a library of movies available and you can purchase them for 24 hour rental by entering your PIN. The charges are simply added to your bill at the end of the month. There are similar services in the US but not everyone has satellite or cable so let’s have a look at the alternatives.
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Currently you have to subscribe to their postal service in order to get access to the streaming video side of the service. This involves paying a monthly subscription fee and prices range according to the number of films you want to be able to access. Netflix did recently announce plans to launch a standalone streaming service but apparently they won’t be rolling it out in the US just yet.
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Amazon Video on Demand
This service offers a large library of TV shows and movies which are streamed via broadband to any compatible device. Many HDTVs come with access built in and so by plugging in your TV to your network you can get video on demand. This service is also offered on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Check out Amazon Video on Demand for more information.
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You can purchase or rent movies and TV shows using iTunes from the built in Store. Some of them include extra features which you can access but the format is designed for use with Apple products, although you can use a PC or HTPC to access it if you like. There is no subscription fee but the prices are quite high.
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This is another video on demand service which offers TV shows and movies but it is currently only available in the US. It is set to launch in the UK early in 2010. It offers TV shows and some full length movies for free so Hulu is well worth a look. If you create a free account you can queue TV shows and movies you want to watch and develop a set of preferences so content you might like will get highlighted.
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Why are we waiting?
There are various other services out there but when it comes to legal movie downloads the quality and functionality is severely limited right now and many of the services are expensive. It seems the movie industry is still coming to terms with how best to handle virtual content. While the technology is in place to deliver it, right now the big companies are more concerned with how to protect their property.