Comparison of UK On-Demand HD Movie Providers

Nialli over at Virgin Media High Definition HD recently blogged about how Apple TV has recently made HD TV series available on its platform. This prompted me to have a look at the current options available in the UK for on-demand High-Definition movies.

If I wanted to watch a movie right now, in HD (and not on dodgy download), what are my options? Assuming I can’t be bothered going to my local Blockbusters, there seem to be four services I could use:

  • Virgin Media Filmflex – provided you are in a cabled area and have a V+ HD subscription
  • Xbox LIVE Marketplace – provided you have an Xbox and a decent broadband connection
  • BT Vision – provided you have a BT home hub
  • Sky Anytime – provided you have a Sky+ HD subscription to their movie channels. I’ve not included regular Sky Movies HD as these aren’t on-demand.

Here’s a breakdown of how many HD movies each service currently offers:

Note I didn’t compare Tiscali TV (who have over 1000 movies on-demand but don’t say on their website whether any of these are in HD), or Apple TV (since I don’t have Apple TV and their website also doesn’t list HD movies).

The Xbox LIVE Marketplace easily wins here, with 114 movies available now in HD. Virgin Media is a poor second with 25 HD movies. BT Vision and Sky Anywhere have fewer than 20 each.

As a percentage of total movies available, the Xbox LIVE Marketplace wins again (excluding Sky Anytime, which has only SD or only HD depending on your subscription):

Virgin Media has only 5% of its VOD movies available in HD, compared with Xbox’s impressive 43%. BT Vision is even worse at a paltry 2%.

The cost of a rental is the only thing that seems pretty consistent (although again, not including Sky Anytime as its VOD movies are “free” provided you subscribe to the Sky Movies packages):

Although all around the £3 mark, BT Vision is cheapest for standard HD movies at £2.88 per rental. Xbox is cheapest for new releases at £4.59. Virgin Media charges a penny shy of a fiver for a new release, making it the most expensive option here.

Conclusion

For range and variety of on-demand HD movies, the Xbox LIVE Marketplace offers the best choice. It’s also cheapest for new-release movies. Best of all, you only need a half-decent broadband connection to have access to all this content: no need for a BT-only phone, Sky dish, or Cable-only service. Even if you never play a single videogame, the Xbox as a high-definition media server is a great investment, provided your broadband isn’t capped or limited too much when you fancy a movie. 

  • Nialli

    Apple’s AppleTV service is another provider of HD movies (and HD TV series too) worth considering. It’s a 720p service you can preview on iTunes. Not sure how many HD movies (seems to be around half of the catalogue) but is cheaper than others at £3.49 for SD, £4.49 for HD. (TV episodes are £1.89 for SD, £2.89 for HD which is ridiculous in my book.)

  © 2016 Jer White / Pansentient League.
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