Home Video – Buy, Rent or Stream?

In this episode of The Home Theater Forum Podcast hosts Brian Dobbs and Sam Posten discuss the merits of buying, renting or streaming media, and where they personally choose to acquire media from.

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Brian Dobbs

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39 Comments

  1. For those who have subscription services, how many do you have?

    For me it's gotten kinda crazy
    Premium Cable TV with HBO
    Netflix
    MLB iOS app
    Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom
    Apple Music
    Xbox Live
    Playstation Plus
    Sirius XM All Access

    Hard NO on Hulu, CBS All ACCESS, NBC

    Maybe on Criterion

    Assume I will add Apple's service next week, if it's a separate price from Music.

  2. JohnRice

    What are you asking?

    The primary debate of episode 3 was Buy, Rent OR stream (Brian) vs. Buy, rent AND Stream (Me).

    It seems like you are an AND, like me. Brian is disks only, an OR.

    Neither of us rent anything tho, digital or physical

  3. Sam Posten

    The primary debate of episode 3 was Buy, Rent OR stream (Brian) vs. Buy, rent AND Stream (Me).

    It seems like you are an AND, like me. Brian is disks only, an OR.

    Neither of us rent anything tho, digital or physical

    Of course, I realized that as soon as I started the podcast. I'm definitely an AND! I buy stuff I really like. I rent from Netflix (and save on the server) stuff I'm interested in seeing. I'm basically always on a 1-disc-at-a-time program with them. I find refusing to ever rent anything totally bizarre. My streaming is mostly subscription. I rarely pay for a specific stream rental, unless it's something I simply can't see any other way. I've only bought (long term) a few streaming items. Usually because it was only available in SD any other way, and I wanted HD. I expect that will get more common

  4. My only streaming subscriptions are Amazon Prime and NHL.tv. — no music subscriptions (except Amazon), and I abandoned Lightroom when Adobe switched to a subscription model. I do buy and rent digital content, and still buy discs, too. My rentals are mostly using digital credits accumulated through Amazon's "no rush" shipping option — I have rented several films that way which would have otherwise been a blind purchase.

  5. I both buy and rent content, depending on how interested I am in it. I am more than happy to rent most new release movies that I otherwise missed in theaters. I prefer to purchase content on physical media, and to use streaming more for subscriptions, digital code redemptions and rentals. For the most part, I don't make digital purchases on iTunes, etc. I'm not opposed, and if that were the only way it were possible to get something, I'd do it (indeed, the new 4K restoration of "War of the Worlds" was a digital-only exclusive and well worth the purchase price), but I'm finding that for things I want to watch more than once, I'd rather have the disc, and if it's something I just want to see first, I'd rather save the cash and go with a rental. I'm trying to cut blind buys out of my life as much as possible; I already have so much content that I'm trying to refocus the point of my collection to be more of "Things that I enjoyed, that meant something to me, and that I'd one day like to enjoy again" and less of, "This was on sale so I bought it on a whim, even though it's not a favorite of mine."

    Between my wife and I, we have multiple streaming services, but I believe only Netflix is kept active year-round. I subscribe to CBS All Access for Star Trek Discovery, and only keep the subscription active when new episodes are airing. I subscribe to HBO Now for several months of the year when shows I like are on, but not year round. We have Amazon Prime because of the free shipping, but I find the technical quality of the Amazon Prime app through the AppleTV is inferior to every other service we use, and it's not my preferred option if the content is available on other platforms.

  6. AND, for certain meanings of “and” 🙂

    Subscriptions:

    • Cable (all the stations but no premium channels like HBO)
    • HBO from two year freebie bonus
    • TiVo (I’m not an animal, who uses a cable co DVR!)
    • Netflix
    • Prime
    • Hulu ($1/mo BF special)
    • Nintendo (canceled PS+ after getting my Switch)
    • Washington Post digital edition

    Purchasing:

    • Buy discs, rip to HTPC
    • Redeem all codes for future use

    Rarely rent, but sometimes it’s the right choice

  7. I suffer an existential crisis around buying media about every ten years. It goes like this:

    I love movies and I can buy VHS tapes! I'm buying videotapes to have a library! And I can record all these great movies from HBO to rewatch! Awesome! … Huh. I'm not rewatching these movies. And this DVD thing is looking good. Why do I waste my money on these tapes I could have just rented? What's wrong with me? I'm not doing this again.

    Ooh! Shiny discs! 5.1 surround! I love movies and can buy DVDs! I'll have friends over to watch with me and have erudite discussions! What a great collection I'm buying! … Huh. I've got black-friday purchases still shrink wrapped from five years ago. And this blu-ray thing is looking good. And I haven't rewatched that amazing Toy Story Toy Box Collection in ten years. Why did I waste all this money on DVDs? I should have just rented. What's wrong with me?!? I'm not doing this again.

    Oh… my wife is letting me build my dream theater! And I can buy blu-rays and build my dream HTPC to have my own streaming library without all those stupid discs taking up living room space! Awesome! look at this great collection I'm getting! So many marvelous movies to enjoy on the weekends! I'll have friends over too! … huh. I'm a busy middle-aged, mid-career guy without much time for movies. Also, TV is amazing this decade. And I've got a hundred blu rays I bought with my theater that I haven't watched yet. And this 4k thing is looking good. And this online streaming thing is looking good, and fixes almost all my complaints about discs without sucking my weekends away like the HTPC does. Why did I waste all this money on blu-rays and HTPC hardware?!?!? I should just rent or use streaming! What's wrong with me!??!??!?!?!?!? Am I doing this again?

    Rationally, I should put the HTPC in maintenance mode to keeps what's there and switch to Movies Anywhere and Netflix for all my movie buying / renting going forward.

    But I'm not completely rational. I'm in the throes of this third crisis and not sure where I'll be in 2020. (Making this harder is that 4K is still something of a mess for projection, and HTPC for 4K is both better and worse than disc players or streaming.)

  8. I'm in a very similar boat as you, Dave, and I'm in the midst of spring cleaning to try to bring the size of my collection down.

    I had drifted from my mission. I wanted to collect movies that I enjoyed so that they would be available to me at my convenience. At times, I have purchased movies I haven't already seen, either because it was cheaper/easier to purchase it than to try to rent it, or because I was convinced that I was going to love it anyway. A lot of times, it did work out that it was a movie that I liked and would want to see again. But there were also plenty that I didn't enjoy, or that I was glad to have seen but wasn't sure that I'd watch again.

    My current purge is mainly focused on DVDs that I purchased between 2004-2005 when I was working at Blockbuster and able to buy previously viewed discs dirt cheap. Many of these I haven't watched since that time period, and I've already moved so many times between now and then, carting those discs around that I frankly had no desire to watch again. I was feeling weirdly obligated to hold on to them, but the truth is, no one's going to come over to my place, look at my shelf, and give me brownie points for having such a complete collection.

    I've also found myself getting trapped by what I jokingly called "the tyranny of box sets" the other day. You probably know the deal: there's one or two movies that you really want, and the cost of buying those two titles individually is equal to or greater than what it would cost to buy a box set that included those movies. I watched and enjoyed the movies I wanted out of the set, and then finally got around to the ones I didn't care about, and didn't care for them. Happened a lot in the DVD era. Then I'd start upgrading the movies I actually liked out of the set to Blu-ray, but then I'd feel that I couldn't get rid of the set unless I had upgraded everything from it – I didn't want to lose a title. So now I've got Blu-ray copies of movies I didn't even want, just because I felt weird about giving up the DVD without having something to replace them. That's insanity.

    It's been a relief purging some of those items from my shelf.

    I'm no less interested in collecting my favorite movies. But I am happy to refocus and to cut some of the dead weight. If I didn't like the movie, what point am I proving by keeping it? If I only have a crappy DVD copy of something that I know I won't ever watch on DVD again (but am waiting for a good price on a Blu-ray upgrade), why not get rid of the DVD now if I know for a fact it'll never be put into my player again? I'm getting rid of some brand new stuff too, some sealed Twilight Time discs that I bought because it was almost like a box set – the thing I wanted was $30 on its own, or $10 if I bought it with a few other titles. For those titles I didn't really want in the first place, they served their purpose, they got me the discount – why keep them? I started collecting 3D discs because I love the 3D format, even though a bad movie is still a bad movie even in 3D. I'm not impressing anyone by holding on to 3D discs of movies I didn't enjoy that I do not want to watch again, ever. Guinness will not present me with an award for collecting the largest set of 3D discs. So goodbye to the ones I'm never gonna watch again.

    I'm trying to resist the urge to carry this behavior over to the digital world – I don't want to get into the habit of buying a movie on iTunes just because it's cheap. I only want to buy a movie on iTunes if I actually am planning to watch it on iTunes. There have been a whole bunch of really great bargains lately, a lot of great $4.99 sales, but I'm trying not to bite. If it was that cheap once, it'll be that cheap again. And even if it's not, isn't it better to just spend $20 on the thing you want when you want it, instead of spending $100 in advance hoping that it'll pay off later?

    Balance is key.

    It's been nice looking at my shelves lately and seeing a more focused look, with a much higher percentage of the things on that shelf being things that I actually want to watch again.

  9. Josh Steinberg

    I'm trying to resist the urge to carry this behavior over to the digital world – I don't want to get into the habit of buying a movie on iTunes just because it's cheap. I only want to buy a movie on iTunes if I actually am planning to watch it on iTunes. There have been a whole bunch of really great bargains lately, a lot of great $4.99 sales, but I'm trying not to bite. If it was that cheap once, it'll be that cheap again. And even if it's not, isn't it better to just spend $20 on the thing you want when you want it, instead of spending $100 in advance hoping that it'll pay off later?

    This. So much this. 🙂

    I downloaded, and then deleted that "charts" app that shows cheap movie sales. That way likes an unwatchable collection for me.

    What really interferes for me is not limited watching time per se. It's that I love TV more than movies. My wife and I watch a lot of TV together, far more than movies. And I can't bring myself to watch movies on my iPad on airplanes. Instead, I watch more TV / Netflix / Prime series that I can't get to at home. So my movie watching progress through my collection is soooper slow!

  10. The podcast discussed briefly the issue of not being able to bequeath digital media to your heirs. Philosophically, i've long agreed this is a real problem that is yet to be sorted.

    But practically, I think it's an egocentric red herring.

    No one wants your stupid discs.

    Consider: how much would you want to inherit a thousand VHS tapes in a decade? The future is streaming. The 30+ year history is streaming via virtual reality. How will your young kids or nieces/nephews kids care about your DVDs in 2050? How much will they care about your 4k digital codes when they're paying $10/mo for streaming access to every film they care about that they virtually watch with all their friends in the OASIS?

    None. They care none about getting your space-wasting discs and outdated movie codes.

    Thoughts?

  11. This is what I have and what I do and do not do!

    Dish Network: Have been subscribing to Dish Network for about 1 year now and have not rented anything.
    Purchase Movies On Disc (I have movies on Laserdisc, DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray and now 4K Blu-ray)
    Rental Stream: Very occasionally will I actually rent a movie to stream!
    Vudu: Basically use Vudu to register the codes and use it as a back up! Very rarely do I stream anything from Vudu!
    Movies Anywhere: Have some movies from codes but I also rarely stream from Movies Anywhere!

    I do not purchase digital content!
    Will purchase a 4K apple tv this year for occasional rental streaming!
    Currently do not have a HTPC or NAS

  12. I got that charts app and I think it's going to lead to disaster if I keep it around. I was thinking about deleting it even before you said it. It's just going to tempt me to do things I shouldn't do.

    DaveF

    What really interferes for me is not limited watching time per se. It's that I love TV more than movies. My wife and I watch a lot of TV together, far more than movies. And I can't bring myself to watch movies on my iPad on airplanes. Instead, I watch more TV / Netflix / Prime series that I can't get to at home. So my movie watching progress through my collection is soooper slow!

    I love movies, but I'm at a point in my life where I'm only really interested in watching movies under ideal circumstances. I had a period last year where my projection setup was temporarily out of service; I didn't watch movies on my TV, I just watched TV on TV and waited for the projection setup to be back in order. My work schedule also changed dramatically, and my wife's also changed, and the end result of this is that I have significantly less time to watch movies on my own at home. A couple years ago, I probably had time to watch 5-10 movies on my own each week. Now, I'm lucky if I can get one or two on my own each week. Ultimately, getting to spend more time with my wife is the better outcome here. I'm not complaining. But now every time I wind up with a movie that's just going to be for me to watch alone, I have no idea when I'm going to be able to get to it.

    DaveF

    The podcast discussed briefly the issue of not being able to bequeath digital media to your heirs. Philosophically, i've long agreed this is a real problem that is yet to be sorted.

    But practically, I think it's an egocentric red herring.

    No one wants your stupid discs.

    I think in general this is very, very true. There are exceptions, there are certain things that certain people might want, but on the whole… discs or movie codes have less value than a new car does after being taken off the lot, or a new iPhone taken out of the box. I think what we enthusiasts forget is that most people simply aren't enthusiasts. Most people aren't interested in making lifetime commitments to movies they enjoy. When they have free time, they simply want to watch something, and if their first choice isn't available, they'll move on to something else. This is why I think it's kinda funny when people object to Netflix original content not being released to disc, and saying that Netflix is missing out on huge untold profits by refusing to do so. But I don't think that's true. The Netflix model is the way of the future because it caters to the way most people choose to enjoy media: by clicking on something from a pile of what's immediately in front of their face.

    I hope and think that 20 or 50 years from now, people will still want to watch It's A Wonderful Life around Christmas. But it's been true for quite some time that you don't need to own a physical object, or even own a digital copy, to accomplish that goal. And I think the general public has been more than fine with that and on board with that a lot faster than us enthusiasts.

    And that's not even taking into account sociological, generational changes. Older generations could expect to work one job for the bulk of their life, and retire from that one job with a pension. Working on one job at the same place allows the freedom to set down some roots, to buy a house, to invest in things to put into that house. But it seems that the economy is shifting to one where people will work multiple jobs over the course of their lives, and will probably have to move several times to pursue work opportunities if career choice is a priority. Not having job security makes it harder to invest in buying a house. Not having a permanent space makes collecting physical items impracticable. I think that definitely plays a part in why younger generations (including my peers) care increasingly less about ownership.

  13. Yes. I don’t want my dad’s random library of books he’s bought and read over the years. I might want one or two books that hold some particular nostalgia or remind me of him. And I don’t want it as a “book” to read, but a keepsake. Otherwise, most of what he owns, when the time comes, is destined for a dumpster, most likely.

    A friend is about to sell the Atari 2600 collection that his kids grew up. They’re not clamoring for him to hang onto their digital media inheritance.

    Thinking our movies matter to other people is like my mom believing her kids want her collection of wicker baskets. No. Nobody wants your wicker basket movie collection except for other wicker basket movie collectors. And they’ve already bought theirs because they’re also crazy people.

    The real problem with the digital collections is they’re non-fungible. What your heirs really want is money. Discs can be sold; those five thousand discs will buy your descendants a pizza dinner after a long and tiring day of the estate sale. But the digital movie collection will be worthless.

  14. Josh Steinberg

    I'm in a very similar boat as you, Dave, and I'm in the midst of spring cleaning to try to bring the size of my collection down.

    I had drifted from my mission. I wanted to collect movies that I enjoyed so that they would be available to me at my convenience. At times, I have purchased movies I haven't already seen, either because it was cheaper/easier to purchase it than to try to rent it, or because I was convinced that I was going to love it anyway. A lot of times, it did work out that it was a movie that I liked and would want to see again. But there were also plenty that I didn't enjoy, or that I was glad to have seen but wasn't sure that I'd watch again.

    My current purge is mainly focused on DVDs that I purchased between 2004-2005 when I was working at Blockbuster and able to buy previously viewed discs dirt cheap. Many of these I haven't watched since that time period, and I've already moved so many times between now and then, carting those discs around that I frankly had no desire to watch again. I was feeling weirdly obligated to hold on to them, but the truth is, no one's going to come over to my place, look at my shelf, and give me brownie points for having such a complete collection.

    I've also found myself getting trapped by what I jokingly called "the tyranny of box sets" the other day. You probably know the deal: there's one or two movies that you really want, and the cost of buying those two titles individually is equal to or greater than what it would cost to buy a box set that included those movies. I watched and enjoyed the movies I wanted out of the set, and then finally got around to the ones I didn't care about, and didn't care for them. Happened a lot in the DVD era. Then I'd start upgrading the movies I actually liked out of the set to Blu-ray, but then I'd feel that I couldn't get rid of the set unless I had upgraded everything from it – I didn't want to lose a title. So now I've got Blu-ray copies of movies I didn't even want, just because I felt weird about giving up the DVD without having something to replace them. That's insanity.

    It's been a relief purging some of those items from my shelf.

    I'm no less interested in collecting my favorite movies. But I am happy to refocus and to cut some of the dead weight. If I didn't like the movie, what point am I proving by keeping it? If I only have a crappy DVD copy of something that I know I won't ever watch on DVD again (but am waiting for a good price on a Blu-ray upgrade), why not get rid of the DVD now if I know for a fact it'll never be put into my player again? I'm getting rid of some brand new stuff too, some sealed Twilight Time discs that I bought because it was almost like a box set – the thing I wanted was $30 on its own, or $10 if I bought it with a few other titles. For those titles I didn't really want in the first place, they served their purpose, they got me the discount – why keep them? I started collecting 3D discs because I love the 3D format, even though a bad movie is still a bad movie even in 3D. I'm not impressing anyone by holding on to 3D discs of movies I didn't enjoy that I do not want to watch again, ever. Guinness will not present me with an award for collecting the largest set of 3D discs. So goodbye to the ones I'm never gonna watch again.

    I'm trying to resist the urge to carry this behavior over to the digital world – I don't want to get into the habit of buying a movie on iTunes just because it's cheap. I only want to buy a movie on iTunes if I actually am planning to watch it on iTunes. There have been a whole bunch of really great bargains lately, a lot of great $4.99 sales, but I'm trying not to bite. If it was that cheap once, it'll be that cheap again. And even if it's not, isn't it better to just spend $20 on the thing you want when you want it, instead of spending $100 in advance hoping that it'll pay off later?

    Balance is key.

    It's been nice looking at my shelves lately and seeing a more focused look, with a much higher percentage of the things on that shelf being things that I actually want to watch again.

    There are many hard truths in your comments! So painful to acknowledge, but you're totally right.

  15. Just finished listening, and a very nice discussion. I actually lost 3-4 movies when CinemaNow shuttered without notice a few years ago, mostly because they were not UV and the service shut down without an exit strategy. At least when Target Ticket shut down, they had an exit strategy by assuring customers ahead of time that any movies that were UV would get transferred to other UV retailers and anything not UV (ie Disney) a credit would be issued, albeit to CinemaNow.

  16. DaveF

    A secondary topic in the “buy” discussion you didn't get to: Do you buy 4K if you’re only HD with a view to the future?

    I'd say that if they are the same price, then purchase the 4K. Most services will automatically stream the highest quality version your device and internet connection are capable of.

  17. I’d probably be inclined to purchase a 4K disc version even though I’m still regular HD, if buying that 4K version didn’t cause me to lose out on something I’d otherwise be able to enjoy right now.

    Example 1: I bought the 50th anniversary edition of “2001: A Space Odyssey” on UHD; it includes a BD version with the same new transfer. Since I know this is a movie that would have been an automatic purchase when I upgraded to UHD, buying that version now got me what I needed for today and future-proofed me.

    Example #2: I just bought the most recent “Fantastic Beasts” movie on Blu-ray 3D, since I’d prefer to watch this movie in 3D over any 2D format. If the UHD edition had included the 3D disc, I would have gotten that, but it didn’t. Buying UHD for that title now would have prevented me from watching the version I wanted to watch today, only for the sake of a higher quality 2D version that I might not be able to watch for years and aren’t that interest in to begin with.

    I think, going forward, new releases will be purchased on UHD, so long as all of the content is backwards compatible to regular HD. But if there’s something that’s HD-only and not UHD, but it’s something I want to watch now, I won’t hesitate to get it. (Which is how I am now with DVD – if that’s the only way to see something I want to see, I’ll get it.)

  18. I bought Spider-verse this evening (impulse buy…). I bought the 4K because it’s got the Atmos and it was only $5 more than HD. And I had BB GC. So, ok.

    I’m cutting back on buying, so when it do buy now, I’m prone to buy 4K, but it’s not a given seeing how cheap catalog blu-ray is.

  19. I’m importing the 3D Spidey but I wanted a digital copy too. A fellow member helped me with a 4K code but I would have been in the market for a 4K digital version (vs HD) regardless. I think that’s what I’ll do going forward when I’m picking up codes for imports that don’t include one.

  20. If 3D were an easy option with a 4K Atmos bundle, I'd consider paying another couple dollars for that. But 3D as it's sold retail (or not sold as is often the case) is a real bother. And the separation of 3D from Atmos is just a tragedy. I've decided to forgo 3D as a rule for cheaper regular blu or 4K Atmos future-proofing.

  21. Dave, I was thinking more about what you were saying before about our descendants most likely not being interested in inheriting this stuff and that’s been in my mind as I’ve been thinking about downsizing some of the bloat in my collection. That got me thinking of the litmus test I might want to apply going forward: Is this something I want enough that I wouldn’t mind packing it into a box, moving it, and then unpacking again? As an apartment renter, I know I’m not going to be here forever, and that my next place isn’t likely to be my final destination either.

    It’s this weird dichotomy where there are some things I absolutely want to future proof and keep with me forever (Star Trek, to name one example) and some things I just want to enjoy in the moment and don’t need to worry about having for the future — but I can’t always tell which is which until it’s too late!

    And I agree about 3D: I love it and it is a priority for me, but it’s making everything else a hassle. It’s almost like when you keep around an old computer or hold off on upgrading your OS because of that one piece of software that you use but that won’t run on anything else.

  22. It very well may be.

    At the very least, I like that the availability of online media means I’m no longer obligated to hold on to a physical copy of a marginal title out of fear of losing access to it in the unlikely event I want to see it again.

    It’s never been easier to find a movie to watch at home and however all of this goes in the end, that still has to be a net positive, right?

  23. The key is: redeem all your codes. 🙂

    I realized belatedly, like in 2017, I should be redeeming these codes. If I don’t use them, I’ve lost mere minutes. But if I shift from discs to cloud, I’m preparing for it even as I buy discs.

  24. While I am not constrained to an apartment with limited storage like Josh, I still live within some self-imposed storage limits for my collection. So, I will purge some discs in my collection every so often if they have not been watched in a very long time, and I always get rid of old titles if I upgrade to a newer format or transfer — I do not keep multiple versions of a film. The advent of digital copies has allowed me another way of reducing my library's footprint, as I have upgraded some DVDs to HD streams and have purchased some new releases as 4K digital instead of buying the more expensive UHD discs.

    While I am mostly selecting the 4K option for disc purchases when available, I did recently opt for the BD version of Westworld: Season 2 instead of the UHD/4K disc. The BD was only $15 while the UHD version was $25, and the digital copy included was only an HD version for both packages. I figured I would only watch the discs once and then sell them, keeping the digital copy. Therefore, it made more sense to save $10 up front.

    Another benefit of having an ever-growing digital library for me is having access to titles away from home. My wife and I travel a lot since retirement, and it's a lot more convenient to have access to streaming versions of a lot of content while away than trying to decide which few discs to pack and needing to bring along a portable BD player.

  25. DaveF

    The podcast discussed briefly the issue of not being able to bequeath digital media to your heirs. Philosophically, i've long agreed this is a real problem that is yet to be sorted.

    But practically, I think it's an egocentric red herring.

    No one wants your stupid discs.

    Consider: how much would you want to inherit a thousand VHS tapes in a decade? The future is streaming. The 30+ year history is streaming via virtual reality. How will your young kids or nieces/nephews kids care about your DVDs in 2050? How much will they care about your 4k digital codes when they're paying $10/mo for streaming access to every film they care about that they virtually watch with all their friends in the OASIS?

    None. They care none about getting your space-wasting discs and outdated movie codes.

    Thoughts?

    I completely agree.

  26. We moved a few years ago we didn't have the space for movies we used to. I had to remove a huge number of titles and did disc to digital with as many as I could. I would guess that half of the titles I purchase now are digital (TV is exclusively digital), and a large portion of the discs are 4k/UHD.

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