Mid-Week Poll: Will You Pay to Stream Movies Early?

In order to bolster its streaming media sales, 20th Century Fox announced late last week a new initiative called “Digital HD,” in which the studio will offer its movies for sale via multiple streaming platforms three weeks ahead of the normal DVD and Blu-ray release dates for the price of $15. The first title to induct the program will be Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’. Does this sound like a good idea to you? Would you pay the $15 to stream a movie early?

Engadget claims that Fox plans to roll out more than 600 films when it launches the program on September 18th. Titles will be available from multiple streaming outlets such as Amazon, CinemaNow, iTunes, PlayStation Network, VUDU and Xbox Live. The absence of Netflix here should come as no surprise, as its subscription model would preclude selling titles individually.

Personally, I consider streaming to be primarily a rental medium, and I have little interest in purchasing movies in that form if other high-definition options exist. I’m also patient enough that I can just wait the three weeks for a movie I want to own to hit Blu-ray. Especially since, more and more, that Blu-ray release may come bundled with a free UltraViolet Digital Copy anyway.

However, much like Walmart’s Disc-to-Digital program, Fox’s Digital HD may have some merit if it includes titles otherwise not available on Blu-ray. Whether that will be the case remains to be seen. Also unclear at the moment are questions of just what resolution the “Digital HD” movies will come in (the name suggests high definition, but will they be 1080p?), what sound format (Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Plus?) and whether buying one puts it in your UltraViolet locker for use across every UV platform (initial information suggests not).

Would You Pay $15 to Stream a Movie Before Its Blu-ray Release?

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    • Shannon Nutt

      I’m willing to rent (the going price now seems to be $5 or $6 for the HD version), but I’m not willing to buy. I’d rather wait and pay $5 more for the Blu-ray which will have superior A/V quality, bonus features, AND (most likely) its own digital copy if I still want that. Not to mention an attractive box to keep it all in. 🙂

      • Tim Tringle

        Ripping my blurays has gotten trivially easy (search for bdrebuilder) so I dont worry so much about digital copies any more, and until digital versions sold are either the same quality or significantly cheaper than blurays Ill just wait. And less than 30 days is not enough to make me pay for something i should get with the bluray. If they had included this with a preorder it would be a done deal, but not like this.

  1. Rcorman

    $15 is too much. They say they are selling it, but you are only getting the right to stream it. What happens when they decide to close the service or move on to another format? You are out your $15 and have no movie. I’d rather wait to buy the Blu-ray so I at least have some control over my purchase.

  2. I would love to buy movies for streaming. Unfortunately, I don’t really trust that the service will be around “forever” or that all my purchases will be available for the entire lifetime of the service, so streaming is still a rental medium for me too.

  3. Jean-Denis

    In the case of iTunes (and perhaps VUDU on PS3), you can also download the file to your computer. Nevertheless, for the time being, the picture and sound specs are inferior to Blu-ray, and quality wins out in my house. Eventually, the tables might be turned.

    I will mourn the death of physical media, though. I’ve spent too much of my life hunting and collecting those little (and not so little) shiny discs. And loving it.

  4. JM

    How much does Fox earn per sale, on a $15 download vs a $40 blu-ray?

    Is there a better business model than this, to sell movies to teenybopper environmentalists?

    $15 for Vudu HDX would be interesting, if my internet was quicker…

    After all, only 5 movies per year actually take advantage of blu-ray’s full potential.

  5. Drew


    I understand that you’re making a point, but a lot more than 5 movies per year take advantage of the full potential of blu-ray.

    Hell, the number of titles that do this might surpass 5 this month alone.

    All signs point to the ‘Indiana Jones’ set doing so. Do we count that as 1 movie, or 4? ‘Titanic’ sure as hell did. If we count all four ‘Indiana Jones’ films, we are already at five in September alone.

    ‘The Avengers’ will, I’m sure. ‘Homeland’ certainly did. Are we not counting television sets? Fine, let me mention a few others.

    I would almost guarantee that ‘Bond 50’ and the Hitchcock masterpiece collection will.

    ‘Battleship’ and ‘Piranha 3DD’ seem to take full advantage of blu-rays capability, based on the reviews I have read

    Can we count ‘Jaws’? Probably not, if I’m already including films coming out at the end of this month. That pretty much defeats the idea of a rolling month vs. a calendar month, right?

    Should we list the ones that did in August?

    • Josh Zyber

      Copies of the Hitchcock set have gotten out early in the UK. Initial word is not good. It appears to be another lazy Universal catalog release. Old DVD or broadcast masters slathered in DNR. Several of the movies have had their credit text digitally replaced, and Frenzy’s credits are now filled with embarrassing typos.

      Rumor is that the set may be delayed, probably just to fix the credits on Frenzy but not fundamentally address the other issues.

      This doesn’t bode well for the Classic Monsters collection either.

      • Shannon Nutt

        That’s a shame if true…Universal did such a GOOD job on their 100th Anniversary restorations (Jaws, Out of Africa, The Sting, etc.). It’s a shame they wouldn’t take the time on the Hitchock release. I know the Dracula that’s on the Universal Monsters has gotten the same love as the restorations I listed above…but the other movies on that set probably haven’t.

        • EM

          The other day I put in the Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein Blu-ray and watched the two 100th Anniversary puff pieces. There were some snippets of Dracula that I thought boded well for the BD release of that film. As I recall, Universal announced “only” 13 films would be beneficiaries of Universal’s vaunted 100th Anniversary restoration efforts; of the nine movies in the Classic Monsters set, only four of them appeared on that list (the two Draculas, Frankenstein, and Bride of Frankenstein). So, it could be that the set will be a mixed bag in terms of HD quality.

    • JM

      When I compare the list of movies I love enough to own, with the list of blu-rays that have 5-star transfers, the overlap is small.

      The only movie you named that makes the cut is ‘The Avengers.’

      Plus within the visual limits of my 50″ plasma at 8′, the difference between HDX and blu-ray is less significant. i.e. ‘Jurassic Park.’

      ‘Neil Young Journeys’ is coming out Oct 16. I would totally BD that.

      And maybe I’m a 5-star slut, but 97% of blu-rays underwhelm me…

      My point of view is that 60% of US households have more money than I do, and my favorite entertainment is meat. Movies come second. Kids are third. And Fox knows this.

      The full perception of the blu-ray experience is more subjective than you credit. Taste, wealth, and physics. And the ever nebulous Hype.

      Unlike some, I am not bound to a physical dick. I’m open to new things.

  6. Jason

    I don’t believe that streaming can surpass the video and audio quality of blu-ray for many more years at least. But me personally. I will always prefer a physical disk I can hold.

    • Tim Tringle

      You need to watch statements like that, I once stated that software DVD players would never match the quality of dedicated hardware and for a while there theaterteks was the undisputed champion when using a htpc with ffdshow filters.

      Bill gates also famously stated we would never need more than 1024kb of computer memory (from memory here, don’t take the actual number as gospel, but its an absurd statement coming from him.) and last time i checked that’s not the case, in fact there are watches that have more memory in them.

  7. Jason

    Why pay for something that I can’t ensure will always be available to me. I got into a discussion with a friend of mine about the pros and cons of the “cloud” and I walked over to the light switch in the room and turned off the lights. I think that illustrated to him how easy it would be for a company to get out of supporting servers or continuing a streaming service.

    Netflix is great because you pay a flat monthly rate to “rent.” There is never the impression that the movies or shows will be available forever. Just like walking into a Blockbuster Video in the olden days there was no guaranty that they would have the movie you wanted.

    We are many years away from streaming quality to come anywhere near blu-ray quality. Not to mention including the extras, commentary tracks and what not. I’m not sure of the numbers but I doubt enough people have fast enough internet service that they could stream a blu-ray quality film.

    As for using streaming to watch a movie early, if I really want to see a movie before it comes out on blu-ray chances are I’ll see it in the theater. And for $15 I would definitely see it in the theater as opposed to stream an inferior digital version.

    • Tim Tringle

      Um we are not years away from blu-ray streaming quality, its bound to how much your networks sustained bandwidth can support. Googles fiber service in Kansas city can strean BR level video and can actually stream quite a few of them at a time actually.

      The problem is the lack of competition in the Broadband businesses and the strangle hold the government allowed the cable companies on bandwidth.

      We would be living in a much different society if the cable companies were not allowed to own distribution, production of and transmission of Media, which is why we used to have a law against just that but over the years the entertainment industry has lobbied and been able to get most of those laws repealed.

  8. Drew


    If that’s the case, you should have said, “There are only 5 movies per year, that I want to own, that fully take advantage of blu-ray’s potential.”

    I’m a 5-star whore, myself, and I’m able to find at least 20 films per year that end up delivering the maximum capability of the format. And I’m not just looking for 5-star video transfers. I’m just as much of a snob for 5-star audio tracks.

    The point is, if you were interested in owning more films, there are at least a few, released monthly, that take full advantage of the potential of blu-ray.

    From now until the end of the year, I would wager that at least 10 big-selling titles deliver both 5-star video, and 5-star audio.

    If you’re like me, and demand that all modern audio tracks that are capable of 7.1 channels, should be given a 7.1 lossless audio track in order for it to truly be worthy of 5 stars, that number will probably shrink a little bit, but it doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of my argument.

    • JM

      Your argument is perfectly reasonable, but in the big picture of 300+ movies per year it’s the difference between 2% and 6% of my total viewing.

      Ars Technica compared iTunes 1080p vs. Blu-ray and concluded that the difference was slight, especially with 4-star or lower video transfers.

      They say the only reason Hollywood is going catalog crazy on blu-ray this year is because they know streaming is coming fast and now is their last chance to collect the blu-ray tax.

    • Josh Zyber

      Fox does not typically send screeners to review sites prior to street date. I expect that the majority of the discs are just repackagings of the Bond Blu-rays previously released. Hopefully, the other nine titles will be of the same quality.

  9. Drew


    I’m curious. Assuming that the ‘Indiana Jones’ set looks and sounds like ‘Jaws’ (Which is what early word seems to be suggesting), how does it not make the cut for you?

    Indy seems right in your wheelhouse. It’s post-1979. It doesn’t feature an ugly lead. The list obviously continues.
    Care to offer some insight?

    • JM

      I bought the ‘Indiana Jones’ collection on dvd and ended up only watching it once. I’ll probably just netflix the ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ blu-ray and be good to go for ten years.

      On the other hand, I’ve played through ‘Uncharted 2’ five times…

      The only Spielberg film I love is ‘Jurassic Park,’ but 99% of that love is because of Michael Crichton.

      I am highly anticipating ‘Lincoln,’ but only because of Daniel Day-Lewis.

      Why do I love Michael Bay’s sensibility and hate Spielberg’s? It has to be located in the kinds of emotion I’m susceptible to. I tend to favor colder directors, like Michael Mann.

      • Tim Tringle

        I really hope you just didn’t put Michael Bay in the same box as Mann, as that would truly be a cinematic crime.

        I can turn off my brain and enjoy a Bay film, but Mann’s operating on a completely different level.

  10. JM

    Sony just demonstrated a new codec at IBC 2012 that can stream 4K at 20Mbps, to speed the rollout using current infrastructure.

  11. William Henley

    For me, it depends largely on the movie. For example, on both Airplane and Definately Maybe, I already owned the DVDs, so rather than buying the Blu-Rays, I just paid the $5 to WalMart for the Vudu thing, and have been quite happy with it.

    $15 to own a movie on Vudu is actually not bad if its a movie where I don’t care about the extras. I am not sure if I am going to buy Promethius, but there are certainly movies that I would jump on this on. I mean, if the streaming version is $15, the Blu-Ray is $25-$40, and its like some cheesy romance comedy or something that I don’t necessarially need DTS-MA on, shoot, its a no-brainer – I would go for the $15 streaming file.

    But, for movies like Indy, Star Wars, stuff like that, I still want my physical disc.

    • Tim Tringle

      A lot of Catalog titles on Vudu have inferior (read, not 5.1 or better soundtracks) so make sure you check the specs before pulling that trigger.

      • William Henley

        I always do. 🙂 I very much know that some movies on Vudu are only available in SD only. I look even more closely at Amazon – there is a show that airs in HD, only Amazon has it (to buy per episode or by season), and its only available in SD. No clue why. Its a current show, and very much airs in HD – has since the first episode of season 1.

  12. Drew

    I appreciate you being so candid.

    I understand where you’re coming from much better now.

    I guess I am just old-school. The thought of owning a digital file does nothing for me. There’s nothing about it that turns me on.

    I don’t buy the idea that streaming will ever offer the quality of a physical disc, 4K or not. In fact, supposed “4K” streaming will probably still look worse than a 1080P blu-ray with a 4-star or greater video transfer.

    Regardless, I really don’t care. Owning a digital file is akin to having an imaginary girlfriend as a teenager. It’s pathetic, embarrassing, and absurd.

    For most of my collection, blu-ray is the best it will ever get. For the rest, I will only upgrade when a new physical format is available. At that point, I will only upgrade titles that were shot natively at 4K or higher. There’s absolutely no point to transferring a muddy 35mm film onto a 4K format. I don’t care hoe much tenderness is put into the effort and what resolution it is scanned at.

    Anything that is natively captured at a resolution that agrees with the new 4K format will be upgraded. As of right now, there aren’t too many titles I can list, in which this will be the case. The rest of my blu-rays will look good enough upconverted on my new 4K system. I’ve put too much into my blu-ray collection to start upgrading films that have no business being transferred to 4K.

    Digital files will never be a part of my life. I don’t care how good they might become one day. They will always be an illusion, and they will never offer the same quality. No matter what resolution is streamed, it is going to have the shit compressed out of it. There’s more to 5-star video than the maximum resolution.

    By the way, your statement about 1080P itunes is bollocks! I tried to watch ‘The Hunger Games’ at my brother-in-law’s house. It looked no better than the DVD copy played upconverted in his blu-ray player. We even switched back and forth to confirm our suspicion. The “1080P” itunes was superior, but the difference was practically non-existent. I was incredibly let down by the itunes effort.

    • JM

      Well, Ars Technica compared iTunes 1080p vs. Blu-ray using a Dell U2312HM monitor…

      Owning digital files are exactly like imaginary girlfriends. Just ask the 54 million active users of Steam. That’s why the future is a renter’s mentality.

      Maybe when the internet is 100x faster, 8K streaming will be competitive.

      Did you see the 4K transfer of ‘Jaws’? Is it 4x better than the blu-ray?

      • Tim Tringle

        I may not be cool enough but I am a steam user, and I still don’t get your (what I’m assuming is a) joke.

  13. Drew

    I saw about 20 minutes of a 4K stream of ‘Jaws’.

    To me it was the final nail in the coffin that there would ever be any hope for streaming.

    It looked like ‘Gone with the Wind’ screened via digital IMAX. Every aspect of the video was pumped up and blown out. It left behind zero filmic quality. It looked like ‘Jaws’ had been re-made using only CGI.

  14. JM

    This morning, Sony Europe’s head of AV said…

    “We’re less than six months away from 4K to the home. We have the acquisition tool, the codec, the display, and the satellite pipeline to deliver 4K, all we need is the set-top box.”

    H.264 encoded at 50Mbps. Isn’t that the same bit rate as blu-ray?

    • Tim Tringle

      BR rarely sustains 50MB, you’re lucky if the transfer hits 26MB.

      Studios pull the same crap they did with DVD, a lot of DVD’s in the first 5 to 7 years of the format didn’t even use dual layer discs. The same has been for BD as well, most movies are barely larger than 23GB even though the discs hold 50GB. The picture quality could be so much better.

  15. Absolutely no way I would pay for a cloud version of anything!

    Back in the day when VHS was in we had to wait 6 months after release to get a decent price on tapes. ($200 versus $15) – I think I can wait for the disc to come out.

    • Pyronaut

      When were movies on VHS $200? I never really bought any movies on VHS but I remember them being around the $20 mark.

      • Barsoom Bob

        Originally, the business model was to price the VHS tapes very high, because the rental stores were going to make all the money by renting it out over and over again. My first purchase was the VHS of Dune in ’84, for which I paid $90 at Tower Records.

        Somewhere in there, I don’t remember which was the first major “sell thru” title, but the light bulb went off and they realized that if they gave it a reasonable price point people would buy their their favorite movies instead of renting them and they could make all the money.

        • Tim Tringle

          TruE, at the height of the blockbuster era \movies were routinely $49.99. The morons wanted to do the same with DVD, then ended up making more on DVD Sales than on first Run movies.

  16. Pyronaut

    If this is going to be successful, they need to give the same features as are available on the disc (behind the scenes extras etc.) or more.

    You want me to give up the extras on the disc, I don’t get to display it on my shelf or lend it to a friend, I get a lower quality picture and it adds to my monthly bandwith, and I only save about $10 and can’t sell it afterwards?

    No thanks. Interesting idea but not well executed.

    h.265 might help with the streaming quality though.

  17. Les

    I admit I was tempted with Prometheus when I heard I could be watching it 3 weeks before the Blu-Ray is released.

    The problem with the Prometheus offering is that the cost of the digital version is $15 while the cost of the Blu-Ray w/DVD and with a Digital Copy is only $10 more. For some reason, I still prefer those hard copies although having a digital backup in the cloud is appealing as well.

    So, I decided to wait for the Blu-Ray, pay a little bit more, and get the
    Digital Copy anyway. Of course, digital copies can be confusing and misleading as well. I am in the iTunes Digital Universe and use an Apple TV for streaming to my TV so I get irritated when a movie proclaims digital copy and then is only available via Ultraviolet/Flixster or Sony. At this time, I do not even use Ultraviolet/Vudu but now that Vudu will work with a Roku box I may take another look at that.

  18. Les

    It depends on what movies Fox has for digital purchase for $15. If a movie is not available on Blu-Ray then sure it is extremely possible if I want it bad enough that I would buy a Digital Copy. If is available on Blu-Ray then it is more likely that I will purchase the Blu-Ray.

    I have purchased a dozen or so movies like Screamers, The Sender, Silent Running, Marathon Man, The China Syndrome, etc. on iTunes Digital because Apple had an HD version and there are no Blu-Ray releases of these movies.