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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Sam Posten

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

For me it's gotten kinda crazy
Premium Cable TV with HBO
Netflix
Amazon Prime
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, Disney

Assume I will add Apple's service next week, if it's a separate price from Music.
 
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No cable for the last 15 years. I’ll never go back. No smart phone either.

Netflix (alternating disc and/or streaming)
Prime
Hulu
Photoshop/Lightroom

Yep, that’s it.
 
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Sam Posten

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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
 

Robert Crawford

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I buy discs and digital content. I never ever rent anything.
 
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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
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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
 
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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.)
 

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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.
 

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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!
 

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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?
 

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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.

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.

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.