Ask LH: Where Can I Buy Permanent Downloads Of Movies And TV Shows?

Hey Lifehacker, We keep hearing about streaming services like Netflix, Stan and Presto for our entertainment needs, but what about a service where you can buy a movie or television show to download permanently? Personally, I don’t like streaming, but would pay for a high quality downloadable file. What are the choices? Thanks, File Hoarder

Movies picture from Shutterstock

Dear FH,

Whether you like it or not, streaming is on its way to becoming the dominant distribution method for all our home entertainment needs. As we recently reported, physical media is in rapid decline and the gap has been mostly filled with streaming services such as Stan, Presto and numerous ISP offerings. (The same thing is happening in the music industry with Spotify, Rdio, Google Play Music and Beats Music.)

Many consumers prefer this model to purchasing downloads — it’s quicker, requires minimal storage space and usually works out cheaper. Plus, you can’t display movie downloads on a shelf, so the value of “owning” a copy is less pronounced than it was with physical media. Simply put, most people are perfectly happy to use streaming services even if it means renting the media they watch.

With that said, there are still a few options on the market that allow you to download movies and TV shows to permanently keep. The obvious options here are iTunes and Google Play — both offer an option to rent or buy, with prices coming in at around $19 for new release movies.

Another option that may be worth considering is UltraViolet. This is a cloud-based video distribution service designed to give you instant access to your entertainment library across multiple devices. While purchases can be instantly streamed, there’s also an option to download them for later viewing. Once you’ve downloaded a file, your rights do not expire: it’s yours to keep forever. Click here and here for an overview of how the service works.

There are also a handful of content holders who are bringing their creations directly to consumers via their own websites. For example, the US comedian Louis C.K. is selling a bunch of comedy specials for just $US5 each. The files are all DRM-free and can be played pretty much anywhere.

Naturally, you can also go through the painstakingly finicky process of ripping all your physical media to hard drive. Or you could just throw your scruples out the porthole and become a filthy pirate. If anyone has additional suggestions, let FH know in the comments section below.


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