Online Film Rental

Category: Video

Online film rental is a service that lets you rent video media online and have it delivered to you. The films you rent may be on optical media such as DVD or Blu-Ray; in that case, the physical discs will arrive via postal service and you'll return them the same way. But online film rentals can also take other forms...

Online Film Rental

How to Rent Movies Online

Getting a DVD in the mail is fine, but it's a far cry from the instant gratification that the Internet offers. Streaming video allows you to watch a film as it is being delivered to you via the Internet. The digital stream of video content is not saved to your hard drive as a file. So in this respect, streaming video is just like the ephemeral signal of broadcast or cable pay-per-view TV. YouTube began a limited experiment in streaming video rentals in January, 2010. is the granddaddy of online video rental services, and still dominates the industry with nearly 10 million customers. Blockbuster Video, the online video rental arm of the Blockbuster rental store chain, boasts about 3 million customers. Both offer DVDs by mail as well as "on demand" streaming video rentals.

To prevent unauthorized copying, streaming video may be encrypted with Digital Rights Management (DRM) algorithms that block saving of the digital video stream to a file. Ingenious hackers constantly find new ways around DRM, but beware of such "cracking" software. It may contain viruses or other malware.

Movies can also be rented, downloaded as files, and saved to disk for repeated viewing. This form of online film rental requires a very fast broadband connection because a DVD-quality movie may be up to 8 Gigabytes in size. Most downloadable movies you'll find online are either pirated or obscure independent films.

The latest Hollywood releases are rented almost exclusively on optical discs delivered and returned by mail. In the United States, popular DVD rentals are available first through a handful of companies. If you find a source for downloading a newly released feature film, it's almost certainly illegal to do so. And as with encryption cracking software, pirated movies on "file sharing" sites are often an attack vector for the spread of viruses.

Another thing to consider if you want to watch movies online, either by download or streaming, is the possibility of exceeding your bandwidth quota. Some internet service providers have bandwidth quotas, and may cap your usage or charge a fee for usage beyond a certain point. Check the fine print in your agreement, especially if you're watching on a mobile device.

The general business model of online video rental includes several levels of customer activity and commitment. One-time casual rentals cost more per disc than a monthly subscription that lets you keep up to 8 discs at once. Unlike most retail rental stores, online video rental services don't charge late fees; you can keep a title as long as you like, you just can't rent any new titles once you've reached your maximum until you return one or more. lets customers find and reserve DVDs online, but they must pick up and return their rentals at vending machine-like kiosks - literally, red boxes. This model saves postage and store staffing expenses, enabling Redbox to compete very effectively against Blockbuster and other physical stores. A number of much smaller online video rental boutiques cater to niche markets such as Asian or other foreign films; environmental documentaries; and more umm, exotic niches.

Are you feeling a bit deficient in the pop culture trivia department? A DVD rental chart can help you choose which movies to rent by tracking the most popular DVD rentals in recent weeks. Check out The Internet Movie Database's DVD rental chart, rent the top 10 movies every week, and you'll always be able to say "Yes, I saw that movie!"

Do you have something to say about online movie rentals? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Online Film Rental"

Posted by:

18 Oct 2010

I liked this article especially "Yes, I saw that movie!" Good work. Thanks Bob.

Posted by:

Jeff Irgens
18 Oct 2010

I love Netflix!
Bought the RokuHD box and it paid for itself in 2 months.
Got rid of the cable part of cable because I live in an apt. and they couldn't balance the outside signal box and the shows were always coming in pixilated (sp?).
It wasn't just a matter of saving money, but actually finishing a show!

Posted by:

Joseph Kiron
19 Oct 2010

Hi Bob

I have used computers at work for 25 years but only recently went online (reluctantly I musty say)

Posted by:

19 Oct 2010

My family uses Redbox fairly regularly for a title they have we would like to see. They have in my opinion a relatively limited selection, but usually the most recent in theaters you might have missed going to see, which is usually my situation. For a buck plus tax, its hard to beat if your going by the local Redbox everyday anyway. There are usually quite a few in bigger towns to choose from, and your not locked into returning from the box you rented from, sweet! I have noticed that they are bringing back a few old favorites, so it does offer a bit more to enjoy.

Posted by:

19 Oct 2010

Hi Bob I beg to differ from you about this streaming movie thing that you talk about so entusiastically. First of all, unless you have a super fast computer with 8GB RAM memory and turbocharged HD (10,000 rpm) and internet at 100 MB per second you won't be able to watch these streamed movies without them cutting off, freezing, distortions, delayed transmission and a bunch of problems associated with streaming. have you tried internet TV? it is the same.

And if you buy the netflix device to connect to your tv to be able to watch these movies, you have many limitations the most important of all them is that you won't be able top lend that movie (as you do when you receive DVD by mail)to your brother or a friend to enjoy it too at their home before you return it. Stream movies are a BIG inconvenience in many ways you are prrecluded from watching the movie on your bedroom unless you disconnect the device from the living room and connect it on your bedroom (you can play the DVD anywhere in your home).

Next time please talk about the CONS too.

Posted by:

19 Oct 2010

We love our RokuHD player! We do have a cable modem with turbo and a series N router so the streaming works well for us. Netflix continues to add to the instant watch library. We haven't had cable for years and we don't mind watching TV shows a year behind to get them without commercials and to be able to watch a year through in a month or so.

We use Redbox once in a while. We only seldom hit the Blockbuster store anymore. We tried BB online when it first came out. Not nearly the selection of Netflix especially in the British murder mysteries that we like to watch.

Netflix does not work as well for my friend who mostly watches new movies. She tends to have to wait for them. I seldom wait for even a new release but I think that is because I usually only have one on my queue at the top.

We sometimes buy movies from Amazon to watch via our Roku player. We haven't decided if we will get Hulu Plus when it is available or not. Maybe.

I do think you need a good fast internet service and an up to date router to truly enjoy the streaming. We only occasionally have lagging or pixelating. The Roku boxes have just come down in price, you can get the HD that we have for only 60 bucks now and they have two higher versions with better wireless (and one has a USB port to use for pictures/movies). We have gotten excellent customer service from Roku as well (have had to return a box that didn't work - no problem).

Posted by:

Digital Artist
20 Oct 2010

With retirement setting in, we bought a TV the size of a drive-in theater screen, followed shortly by a blue ray player. Strange to say, it has been a year now and we have yet to play a blue ray disk, but Netflix comes through our blue ray player (along with four other streaming video sources including Youtube) I didn't know this when I bought the blue ray player, it was a nice bonus since we were already subscribed to Netflix. Ask about this before you buy a blue ray player. I just got lucky. (The blue ray player is a Samsung)

Posted by:

20 Oct 2010

I LOVE my Netflix! I get about 2 discs a week plus I have the Roku box. I've had the Roku player for 2 years and I use it every day! Roku connects to many other online sites too like Amazon & I use it for a couple other sites, but I use it mostly with Netflix.

I watch the "box" more than I watch TV. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves movies and loves the ability to pick & watch a huge selection of movies & tv shows, old & new. It's really great to watch old tv shows that you loved or didn't get to watch in the past. It even has a search feature so you can search for movies & tv shows to see if they are available for instant viewing.

I've had almost no problems with streaming even though it connects through my pc which is horrible and old. My son uses his PS3 for his Netflix account & he has had more problems than me, but that may be because he connects through a cable account & I use DSL. I highly recommend both Netflix & the Roku player.

Posted by:

20 Oct 2010

My family uses netflix on a regular basis, I travel a lot and have to rely on wireless internet at different locations on my laptop, and have not had too many problems getting a movie to download and play. Occasionally the movie will stop and restart the buffering, but after 2 or 3 times of this Netflix will actually adjust the speed and it runs smooth for the remainder. The biggest issue I have with Netflix is they do not offer a way to censor movies. My 13 year old son had asked to connect his Xbox to it so he could watch movies, then when I went back in to review what had been watched, I found he had viewed Mature rated movies and unrated shows. I have since removed his Xbox from the service, and I will not allow it back on until Netflix offers a way to censor movies like a lot of cable channels provide.

Posted by:

Dave in Indy
25 Oct 2010

re: Steve's comment about Netflix Censoring movies. V-Chip, Parental Controls and so on can not take the place of parental involvement. YOU should be the censor and mandate to your son, what he can and can not watch.

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