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IPTV Week logo This month, at long last, US video streaming giant Netflix finally arrived on UK shores, with a £5.99 all-you-can-eat offering. It was swiftly matched by the local incumbent, Lovefilm. The Amazon-owned company pitched a streaming-only option at an introductory £4.99. But which is the best option for Reg …

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Makes my mind up for me

I subscibe to Blockbuster rental-by-post. They have just sent me the last two Harry Potter films on BluRay to watch this weekend. All the comments above lead me to believe, for films, I'm better off sticking with what I have for now. I'll look again next year.

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I just cancelled my LoveFilm account last night. Had issues with discs that had obviously been buffed to look new, but didn't work properly, and I personally thought the streaming service's selection was crap. I mean look at your own screenshots - Highlander: The Source, for fuck's sake? They don't even have the one good movie from that series!

Might trial Netflix on my PS3, but I'm not holding out hope. Maybe in a few years when the libraries have increased in size somewhat. I couldn't give two shits about the latest Michael Bay monstrosity - I want to watch *good* movies (which probably means movies from before 2000).

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Anonymous Coward

I cancelled my LoveFilm account...

...when they stopped sending discs on the order I'd asked for, and worse, started to send discs within a series in the wrong order.

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ssu

Poor sound quality with Netflix 5.1

I did not realise it was supposed to be DD Plus. Through the xbox client I watched Expendables and it looked impressive but the audio, I thought, sounded very poor - more like ProLogic than anything else. To me the audio is a very important part of a film and neither service seems to care.

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Stop

Problem here

is customer expectations.

They are expecting recent movie releases for streaming. Neither Loveflim nor Netflix offer this. Only Loveflim movies by post offers this, and considering it's only a couple of quid more than Netflix, surely it's a no brainer.

I have a Loveflim subscription which works out at £2.50 more than Netflix a month, and for that, I get unlimited streaming, unlimited Blu-Ray's, 2 at a time. If I want to upgrade and add games at any time - i can, if I want to downgrade- I can, if I want to suspend my account - i can.

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Loveflim wins hands down for me.

Simply because for £3 more a month, I get everything Netflix offers, plus I get unlimited Blu-Ray's by post of all the latest movies. It's even cheaper if you pay up front (5-15% cheaper, depending on how much in advance you want to comit to). Added to that, the fact Loveflim includes Games by post, and I can upgrade, downgrade or even freeze my account and payments, make it VASTLY superior.

It's such a shame this article totally ignores these important Loveflim points, and simply reviews Lovefilm bits than Netflix has.

Also to call Netflix (or any streaming service) HD is rather misleading, as the amount of compression used makes it worse than DVD,

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Does Lovefilm still do that thing on the PS3 where if you browse all films A-Z iin a genre it only shows 100 results?

Really annoying if you want to see what sci-fi films are avaliable that start with the letter "S"

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Anonymous Coward

LoveFilm wins for me... for now...

I've been using the LoveFilm streaming & rentals for about 14 months now, in the house we have a Sony TV wired directly to the router in the living room and a Sony BR player in our bedroom on wifi along with the usual collection of desktops and laptops belonging to the various household members and connecting inn various ways, our internet connection averages about 9MB. Unfortunately all the desktops / laptops run one form of Linux or another so they were shafted by the switch to silverlight, but prior to that we found we could stream different movies to 3 or 4 devices simultaneously without any issues, playback starts almost instantly. The BR player connected via wifi streams everything flawlessly with only about a 4-5 second delay before playback starts, my laptop only gets ~50% signal strength in that room. The content changes very regularly as well, with some of it being available periodically (for a month or so) and some being 'permanent'.

What's even better is if your with Natwest you can actually get the unlimited streaming plus unlimited BR & DVD rentals (two at home at a given time) for £4 a month, or the unlimited streaming only package for free, by upgrading to a silver account. Ok so the silver account costs £8 a month but you also get 5 MP3s each month from 7Digital, mobile phone insurance, and unlimited access to your experian credit report (including the identity theft assistance etc) so an absolute bargain in my view! :-)

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I've had Lovefilm for awhile and am trialling Netflix. Some random thoughts. It's annoying the lovefilm "£4.99 streaming only for a year" i only for new subscribers. As an existing subscriber, if I drop down to it it's £5.99 so comparable to Netflix.

Lovefilm online content has been terrible for ages (if you don't want to pay per view on new releases). Netflix coming along seems to have given them a kick and they have started getting some newer releases. It's also noticable they have just signed with ABC so have suddenly added a whole load of series (Castle, etc) which is encouraging (though annoying as I prefer Netflix).

Netflix is never going to go for "new" releases on films and tv, they've said it's just not economical on a "all you can eat" package. They are always going to add things post the movie companies getting their money from DVD rentals/sales. For now, they seem to have a wider back catalogue than Lovefilm, so stuff to take your interest but not the way to replace upto-date DVD rental or Sky/Virgin.

The Netflix website is simple, clean, and whilst yes its missing things like forums and such, it doesn't feel like I'm pulling teeth out. The Lovefilm website is just horrible to browse through. Horrible, horrible, horrible. I can browse Netflix on my PC, find what I want and do a quick search on the Xbox to get it up. The Netflix apps have a few annoyances and I have seen some random buffering issues, but not sure if this was down to net speed or netflix suffering (as it was a sunday night, no one was on tv). Generally though it's been flawless and the picture quality good.

So at the moment, the ideal would be both. Lovefilm for DVD + newer releases streaming, Netflix for large back catalogue. In the end one will win out for me, and it's looking towards Netflix if they can add more content. Obviously it's early days so nothing new has been added in the two weeks they've been open, but they are promising a bunch more TV series "in the next couple of days" on their facebook page. What comes on will probably decide a lot of people whether to stay with the trial.

I agree with everyone who says exclusive content deals is totally unhelpful to the media studios campaigns to get people to buy/rent/pay and not pirate.

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Giving Netflix a try at the moment and the picture quality is pretty good. The selection is pretty poor, kind of like when you rummage around in the bargain DVD bin at your local Spar.

Enjoying misfits at the moment though I will cancel before the trial end, Robocop 1,2 and 3 .. that is scraping the bottom of the barrel IMO.

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Netflix + PS3 + DNS tweak...

I've signed up to the Netflix trial, and like many others found their offering pretty poor for the UK market - this could be down to the fact that it's a new service, it could be down to digital boundary enforcement by dumb-ass distributors.

I heard about a quick DNS change in my PS3's network settings, which has now given me full access to the US catalogue, and it's now totally worth the £6 a month. I've no idea (not being a networky techie) if the dns change will affect my online gaming or PSN Store offerings - not that I use either very much, but for the sake of a dead quick amendment to the network settings (which could also be applied at router level to affect every machine on your network), it's opened up a whole raft of movie and tv choices...

Anyway, that's my experience and if it helps anyone else, then best of luck to you.

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Trialling Netflix here for a month, then I'l try Lovefilm, then pick one.

Netflix actually quite good and the range content seems to have expanded since day one in UK. I'm also liking the programme/series state maintenance, even between devices.

However, even though I've got 40Mb BT Infinity I still get <<buffering>> from time to time - either due to number of freetards at the moment (% will inevitably drop over time) or because of 'buffer bloat', I'm not sure.

Quality on SD is surprisingly good, but as I've got an AMD Fusion-powered HTPC and Silverlight doesn't currently support DXVA hardware acceleration, HD is a slideshow. Shame, as this is a big minus for Netflix, especially considering the Flash acceleration is flawless so I'd expect Lovefilm to be fine for HD...if it ever arrives!

As others have said though £6/mo for Netflix makes the £12/mo for the BBC look like stonkingly good value.

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Facepalm

Lovefilm also use Silverlight

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FAIL

Using anything with the new Xbox 360 interface...

....is nigh on hopeless without a bloody Kinnect. As I'm 40 I refuse to buy such a thing.

Worst user interface the 360 has ever had. Awful.

Hitting back a couple of times then takes you to a "Go back in icon" that just takes you back to where you wanted to leave. The whole across the top and then up and down...christ.

FFS!

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Netflix is missing a "favourite list"...

I've used the Wii and web versions of NetFlix a few times (no LoveFilm here in Ireland), and I've one big gripe with the user experience:

While trawling through the movies, I'll often see one that might be a possibility, but not a "yes, I'll watch that right now". Thing is, there's no way to just mark that one, continue looking, and maybe come back to it. I've either got to watch it now, or remember exactly where it was in the list so that I can manually navigate back to it later.

Those old enough to remember real-world video/DVD rentals will realise what I'm looking for is the equivalent of picking up three or four titles while I walk around the shop, and then deciding on which one to watch at the very end.

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Sticking to Cinema Paradiso here (about the only DVD Rental Club that's not actually Love Film in disguise)

Unlimited monthly Blu-Rays, 2 at a time at £12.99 (15% off for pre-paying 3 months) seems good for now. They claim the usual 70K catalogue and so far only 1 of my choices was absent from this list.

Netflix is a company I just don't trust after the giant, scamtastic mess they made of their US market and it sounds like the Love Film streams are too poor quality. Love Film also scammed me on an "Free Trial" a few years ago so I've steered clear ever since.

Like others I will re-investigate in a few months to a year.

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Meh

I love the idea if these and now have a broadband connection fast enough, but they each seem to have very big flaws in them that could be resolved if you could get the best of both worlds by merging them...

Netflix - it would be nice if the Browse Selection section of the website actually let you do that, rather than just showing a few things from each category, lack of new films

Lovefilm - I'm dubious about this whole "introductory" price thing, and charges for newer films, I keep reading that the quality is inferior and some films are absent from some devices but not others

I'm tempted to give the trials a go on both of them and see how I get on, but I just like the idea. I don't actually *need* such a service - I don't watch all that much television anyway.

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g e
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Netflix won in our house

Have both on the PS3, Lovefilm was clunky unintuitive and had no search (maybe they do now they have competition but a fail is a fail).

Netflix UI is nicer, has lots of TV shows and a better selection of movies than Lovefilm had last time I could be arsed to load it's ugly ass up and fail to find anything I wanted to watch.

Lovefilm's getting canned, don't care about disc rentals.

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Anonymous Coward

This is going to hurt Sky - the whole market is moving to on-demand (so people will not care about Sky Plus) and Sky are not keeping up.

£6/mo for Netflix and most people will already have a Xbox, PS3 or Apple TV (plus others) that can access the content - compared to about £35-40 for a SD Sky package with movies and £10 more for HD. Yes you get some newer movies on Sky Movies but if you have an Apple TV / Xbox etc. you can usually 'rent' those for £2.49-£3.49 a time. Or pay £10/mo for Lovefilm and get the new movies via DVD / Bluray included.

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Meh

Started using Love Film online a few weeks ago.

I have a 16Mbps ADSL link and picture quality is pretty good. Only get a bit of pixelation when something goes really crazy on screen.

Not that much different to Freeeview. The only criticism is as mentioned previously navigating the collection is really horrendous and time consuming. A lot of gems are really hidden away if you are just browsing.

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Goodbye Netflix

Had my Netflix account for about three days. Looked worse than the bargain bin at HMV. What a disaster. If I want to watch ancient films or TV series I'll use Freeview.

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US Netflix Content

I have been using this to access US content, not sure of the legality but works great. The range is much larger than the UK offering. I simply just changed my DNS server on my wireless router to theirs and all my devices now access US content

http://www.unblock-us.com

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Pint

VPN is your friend..

One of the "hidden" features of a Netflix account is that you're able to access US, Canada and other regional content when you're travelling without any additional charge (as yet!). Consequently all you need a VPN service with servers in these countries and you can stream content from a catalogue that outdoes the UK service considerably.

If your router supports VPN capabilities, then there should be no problems accessing US and Canadian content from TVs or set-up boxes.

It's a bit of a cheat and possibly quite naughty, but perhaps if the rights holders can see the demand for particular content in the US and Canada being accessed from UK accounts - perhaps, maybe, Netflix UK will prioritise the purchase rights for them.

To be honest, I'd pay double the current cost for Netflix UK to help bring the US and Canadian content over the UK - if it would help fund that. As it is, the UK content isn't bad (at least 4-5 months of content that is of interest to me at the moment) so I will almost certainly be sticking with it.

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Holmes

Netflix for streaming Lovefilm for other stuff

If you're purely after a streaming service then go with Netflix, it's investing significant amounts of money in acquiring content for it's UK service, which will mean in the next few months it will start to be comparable with Sky in terms of availability of movies/TV and as described the quality of streaming is decent. At present Lovefilm is not investing that kind of money so will generally only be streaming library titles (stuff that's a couple of years old or more) and again as described the streaming quality is only passable.

On the other hand Lovefilm (which I'm a subscriber of) is great if your happy to keep it old school and use physical media, particularly if you use it for renting games (which I do.)

Incidentally the Lovefilm interface trialled above is horrible and is the same as the PS3 interface, however there is much improved interface for the Xbox360 which hopefully will roll out on other devices sooner or later.

I imagine if Netflix makes major in roads in the UK, then we'll see Amazon pony up some more money to make sure Lovefilm competes in terms of quality of titles, particularly if they see it as a way to push their Kindle Fire devices

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Anonymous Coward

Definition of Unlimited ?

Lovefilm is great but its not unlimited as you have to wait for the return to be processed and the postal service between films!

On 2x Disc "Unlimited"

Disc1 - A game so you will be playing it

Disc2 - A film - Watch the film at the weekend, send it back Monday you wont get the next film on your door mat until Weds/Thu, so you can only manage about 4-5 turnarounds a month. Its not like you can state on the website I've watched it, its in the post send me another film!

At Christmas you are lucky to get a turnaround inside of 1-2weeks depending on how the bank holidays fall between Christmas/New Year and the postman gets out of bed.

Finally if you get a free film credit, they wont ship out your next title, until Disc2 and the free film have both been returned.

All in all, the best at the moment but could do better!

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Get the 3 disc package, it's only an extra few quid per month but allows you to view significantly more films.

Slow turnaround can occasionally still frustrate, but in terms of return for the relatively small amount extra it is worth it.

Interestingly, on checking current prices (I was a LF subscriber, via Tesco, a few years ago) I notice the white label services like Tesco are now more expensive than standard LF prices. The opposite used to be true.

And of course for new subscribers there are still all those discount vouchers floating around if you just want a few months cheap before cancelling.

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Anonymous Coward

Netflix is on the Apple TV so that's a big plus.

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FAIL

Uninspiring

I was going to look into one of these services, but it seems that they fall hopelessly short on two main factors; content, which should be the same as what you can get from a rental store, and quality, which, and this sounds familiar, should be the same as what you can get from a rental store.

I have no idea why the content isn't the same online as instore/disc delivery - if the argument is anything to do with piracy then it doesn't make sense as pirated copies will be available at least as soon as the disc are.

Regarding quality, it would be infinitely better if these offered an optional download like the iPlayer rather than just streaming. Even if it's time-limited & DRM'd to the hilt, it's still more flexible than a stream, no less flexible than sending discs by snail mail, and would allow BluRay quality films over slower connections. It also gives people like me the choice to download it in my off-peak period, and there would be no buffering, which I wouldn't tolerate in a cinema or on TV so why would I tolerate it during a film?

If they offered this for £6 a month I'd bite their hand off, and I suspect a lot of other people would too.

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Anonymous Coward

"Lovefilm is great but its not unlimited as you have to wait for the return to be processed and the postal service between films!"

Believe you can pay a bit more for even more discs - unlimited movies 2 discs at a time is £10 a month, 3 discs at a time just £3 more. I have the 2 disk option and typically get 2 every week but that is well enough as could not watch more than 2 films with everything else as well.

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Anonymous Coward

"If they offered this for £6 a month I'd bite their hand off, and I suspect a lot of other people would too."

Maybe that's why it's just £6/month. I regard it as a bargain for all the films / TV episodes you could watch. When people are paying £40-50 for a Sky subscription...

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Anonymous Coward

"BluRay quality" would require you to download up to 50Gb worth of data to each film you watch - for most broadband connections that is just not realistic.

Most (compressed) HD content is around 3-6Gb and while not BluRay quality is pretty good.

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not interested in subscription

They both sound terrible. I first used an online streaming service when I lived in the US in 2002. I forget the name of it but it was free to register. There were several 'indie' films available for free and a small number of more mainstream movies for a small fee ~ $2 - $3

I first watched Ghost Town & Memento on that service (I couldn't stand the way the US channels butchered every movie to fit into nice hourly slots so I never bothered getting a TV)

These offerings actually sound worse 10 years later. I think I'll stick to rentals / piracy / waiting until it is shown on TV. Until they offer more choice and single purchase options.

Thanks,

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WTF?

Why bother?

I am extremely dissatisfied with all the streaming services currently on the market, for a number of reasons:

I, like many people in the UK live in an area where the only available broadband provider is BT and their various resellers, no LLU and no cable here.

Because of my distance from the exchange, i can manage about 3mbit (but the performance is not consistent) and I also have a plan which imposes a monthly download cap during the day, with unlimited downloads from midnight to 8am. A streaming only service is therefore useless, i don't want to watch movies from midnight - 8am, and the fluctuating connection speed makes streaming quite a poor experience anyway.

Being forced to use specific devices irks me, I have a linux based set top box which is more than capable of playing HD video, and yet these streaming services require their own proprietary clients which aren't available for these devices. Similarly, i am artificially prevented from using my linux based laptop to access the services.

I also detest the fact that only limited content is made available to users in the UK... This is basically a form of racial discrimination and should be illegal. There is absolutely no valid reason to provide an inferior service to people based on where they live. The world has moved on, people now regularly communicate worldwide and by the time a movie is finally released in the uk, people will have encountered so many spoilers online as to make viewing it pointless.

So instead of settling for these inferior services that discriminate against me based on what software i use, what devices i use and where i live... I simply acquire movies via torrents and usenet.

I can download at night (outside of capped hours), and store on disk to watch whenever i feel like it.

I can watch the downloaded movies on any device i choose.

I can convert the downloaded movies to view on other devices as necessary (eg you wouldn't want to store 1080p video on a phone that only has a small screen)...

I can download at whatever quality level suits me (even if doing so takes hours), rather than what my connection is capable of streaming in realtime.

I can watch movies or tv shows at the same time as my friends in other countries, and then join in the conversations about them afterwards.

I would quite happily pay for a service that provided me the same level of convenience and service, but it appears that if i pay i just end up with a vastly inferior service.

I have already stopped downloading mp3 files from torrents since being able to purchase standard mp3 files that are playable on any device.

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Alert

"I would quite happily pay for a service that provided me the same level of convenience and service, but it appears that if i pay i just end up with a vastly inferior service."

So you'd pay for a better streaming service, but you won't pay for a better internet package with unlimited data?

I'm BT too, and have the unlimited ADSL account - the speed is indeed a bit pants, but it's fine for Lovefilm, and I have no problem streaming iPlayer HD content (which comes down as excellent quality).

I'm not saying it's good value - they're thieving bastards, but karma's gonna get them one day.

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Anonymous Coward

Netflix does not work

Can't get Netflix to work. Every time I click browse, I get an empty page, except for a box to register. Surely this is not a requirement. I tried to email them, but I couldn't get the email form to work.

No Browsing, no service. Hello Lovefilm.

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Yes, but...

...have you *seen* Whoopi Goldberg’s Fatal Beauty?

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Lovefilm spam

No netflix spam in any of my traps - but plenty of lovefilm UBE sent through a third parties. They have taken no action or responded to complaints.

Lovefilm is blacklisted here (going as far as mastering thier domain in DNS to remove them from the "net") because of this torrent of crap.

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Linux

open hostility towards Linux = no intrest

We have a first rate use of Blu-ray anyway so it is academic but I would say that the open hostility towards Linux, especially by LoveFilm, precludes our interest in their existence.

We are not hostile but it is very important to body-slam the attitude.

We have netflix but our use is by mail which has always been fine but if Netflix seemed as hostile to Linux, we would dump them pronto on principle alone. Severe? Perhaps... we don't actually need anything like these services but the point *needs* to be made.

4% of the market is not trivial... its money that could be theirs. Anyway that's my little rant... No Linux... no interest in what you offering.

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Windows

I wouldn't say they are "openly hostile", rather deeply indifferent to a segment that makes up only 1% to 2% of their potential market. I think you are being a bit optimistic with 5 %, remember they are not aiming at techies, but the general public.

I still think Silverlight is as bad a platform as Flash, though, and I certainly won't install it just for Netflix and Lovefilm.

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Netflix works fine outside the UK too

If you have a simple UK proxy server. Even lets you use it on many computers simultaneously.

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Easy choice - none of them

1. I don't have the luxury of high broadband speeds

2. Why suffer the poor streaming quality?

3. I can get anything I need to watch any time at higher quality, without having to stream

4. There's just too much media to consume already and I'm usually too busy doing more cerebral stuff

I guess it must be an age thing, as the older I get, the less of a damn I give about TV and Movies in general. There's *way* more interesting things to be doing and a lot of that is net based - why just sit and blindly consume when you can also participate?

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Silver badge

Well, Lovefilm doesn't list "Dambusters" but does have "Dangerous Moonlight" and both of Ms Agutter's versions of "The railway children". And "Casablanca" and "Nosfesterau" and All of Alan Plater's Beiderbecke series.

Netflix refuses to discuss what it has unless I join up. So buggerem.

Decision made, I feel.

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WTF?

Catalogue browsing

As another poster said, traditional media does not get the 'net as a distribution mechanism since to them all 'net users are hoisting the Jolly Roger. I used Napster back in the day until iTunes and then bought mp3s - singles and albums - when there was a easy, legal alternative.

I don't watch films via foreign sites and/or via torrents (except Riko Tachibana productions - yes, I have previously dipped my hand in my wallet to pony up for subscription), but I do watch TV shows (recently the under-the-radar Odyssey 5, Firefly, Jericho, Outer Limits and Twilight Zone) via the 'net. I never switch the TV on.

Netflix looks like a legal alternative (unless I pony up for a VPN and watch Hulu - I can't believe this issue plagues e-books. FFS! When will these industries wake up!) - except for the brainless decision to only browse once you've signed up!? Why the **** do we have to rely on a 3rd party site? http://www.thenowhereman.com/netflix/

If Netflix has the Outer Limits (old and new) and Twilight Zone, and will get Game of Thrones Season 2 at some stage, I'll sign up mid-Feb so I can watch on my tablet device (iPad2 / Asus Transformer Prime).

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Netflix - two probems

At the price, the lack of recent releases doesn't bother me so much, and seems pretty much inevitable, and I assume that their catalogue is going to expand.

My two gripes so far are occasional problems with the sound/picture being slightly out of sync and the fact that you can't browse the entire catalogue. The syncing thing seems to sometimes go away if you stop and restart the film, but I don't even understand how modern hardware and codecs even allow that to happen...

I would add some of the categories it offers me to the complaint, but they're more just bizarre rather than a problem ("Dark thrillers with a strong female lead", or something like that - that's a thing?).

Price-wise, netflix seems to be a clear winner - either that or I misunderstood what lovefilm was offering.

Anyway, lovefilm's not an option. We have a good dvd deal with them which their desperate to make us switch from. Every new service they offer requires us to switch away from it. TBH I haven't even used the deal we have (pay-per-disc rather than monthly), but I don't want to cancel it, I want to pass it on to my children when I die....

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MJI
Silver badge

Options of both - choose neither

Got a PS3, both are listed in the XMB, however what else is in the PS3 - a BluRay drive, you can pick up BDs for around the £5 mark, so that is what I do.

Better picture & sound and I get to keep it.

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Netflix plus 1

I had love film via my Sony TV and it was rubbish, the picture was poor and I'm on 20-40mpbs fibre to cab.

I'm now on netflix free trial so far its ok, Its very good in HD and I do like the fact the picture gets better as you start to watch it on pc.

Only fed up as Sony do netflix in USA on my TV yet not over here?

And for the Muppets that says the offer is only open to facebook need to goto Specsavers. try the top right corner for the normal sign up page that I used.

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Anonymous Coward

Tried LoveFlim and Netflix, Netflix is better, but only just....

Unless you use a simple trick and then use then you have access to the US content, which is miules better and you get so much more. .

UK account, UK address, UK card. But US content., for the xbox and PS3 all you need to do is change your DNS servers. do a quick Google search for instructions and you can also be watching the latest Futurama or Toy Story 3.

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