LoveFilm video streaming

For quite a while now we’ve been a LoveFilm subscriber. This is known as the service where you build up a list of dvd’s you’d like to see, and they post them to you. The levels of subscription control how many discs you can have at once. When you’ve watched the film, you post the disc back, and they send you the next.
You can’t control the order in which films come to you (well there are some special options to influence it a little,. but broadly they send what they feel like) However, you can create multiple separate lists, and assign your allocated discs to the different lists. For instance, we have one list of films, and one list of tv shows. For tv shows you do get to control that they send you the season discs in order, and so we always have one disc working through a tv show, and another random film.

All this is pretty good. But there’s more.

LoveFilm also allow video streaming of some of their catalogue. Given that my television is connected to my Asrock running ubuntu, this means I can live stream content directly to my television. And it’s really good. The quality of the video is at least television quality, if not dvd quality. You don’t get surround sound (yet) but as an on-demand service I’ve been very impressed. If something crashes, or goes wrong whilst you’re watching, it remembers where you were and allows you to continue from where you left off. In many ways it’s a lot like bbc iPlayer, just with a lot more choice of films to watch.

There are problems. The catalogue available for on-demand streaming is no where near the entire catalogue. And where they do have new films, they want to charge an additional fee to stream it. This I don’t understand, on my subscription I can chose the film, and they will send me a dvd, a real physical thing that no one else can use whilst I have it. All included in my fee. However if I want to stream the same film they expect me to pay more. I presume there is a percieved value in the ability to chose now, and get exactly what you want. And don’t get me wrong, there is, but for me it’s not as much as they are asking. Oddly enough I would probably pay an extra £10 a month, to get full access to all the streamable content without further fees.

The other main problem, is that the website search is hopeless. Seriously, it’s a painful experience. Given that there are broadly on-demand films which are free with my package, and those which are not, it is very easy to accidentally find you’ve switched from searching in free stuff to searching in paid stuff (perhaps intentional, but annoying) Also when you have a list of films up, the only sort ordering available are ‘member rating’ and ‘date added’ These are two of the least helpful sortings I could think of. Whilst I’m vaguely interested in member rankings, I’m not in the least bit interested in when they happen to have added the films, since there is no relationship between that and the date the film was released. They add old and new stuff all the time. Hey LoveFilm, how about we try something revolutionary, wacky even, and go with Alphabetical! that’d be a start, or year of film release, or running time of film?

I really want a nice search capability where I can be clear that I’m looking in free with package, for films containing some specific criteria or set thereof. (actor, keywords, genres, etc etc)

When you pick a given thing to watch, there is a section for ‘more like this’. I have no idea how this is calculated, but you might imagine when watching a tv series, other episodes would show up…but no. In fact, when watching a tv series you might image it’s possible to get a list, in order of the episodes to start watching. But sadly not, at best you end up with a couple of pages of the episodes in random ‘member rating’ order and just have to trawl backwards and forwards looking for the next episode.

It would be nice to be able to request things get added, or even get an indication of what is coming, Particularly for tv seasons, I’d far rather stream them than watch 3 episodes on a disc, wait a few days turn around to get the next. It would feel good to understand what controls additions to the catalogue, and maybe have the chance to vote and influence the order it happens in.

This service is so close to greatness. the quality is good, the concept is good. The catalogue is growing, albeit randomly. The price is right, it’s a reasonable monthly cost, (it would be easy to see someone create such a service, but demand a crazy price to use it.)
With some improvements to the website, they could see this becoming *the* way that people watch films. Just as I ditched blockbuster for trying to charge me a late fee because I missed their 10pm closing time by 30 seconds (literally the staff were locking up, so it counted as not returned until the next day) I think any service that expects you to wait for a disc will ultimately be replaced by on-demand. And LoveFilm are in prime place to be the household name, just as NetFlix is in the US.

They’ve already started some smart moves, partnerships with TV’s that support internet and a loveFilm apps, certainly something I’ll consider when I come to replace my TV.

All of this is just the beginning, There are so many opportunities here to take the service to the next level, the smart player in this field will blow away the competition. If I had the confidence, and the money I’d set up my own business and do it right.

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