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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    you can also go through the painstakingly finicky process of burning all your physical media to hard drive

    That would be ripping, not burning and isn't such a bad way to create a digital library.

    I get lots of older movies and television series second-hand from eBay and rip them myself. Programs like Handbrake now make it very easy. You also get to choose your own tradeoff between file size and picture quality, which you don't get from online sellers beyond maybe a choice of standard or high definition.

    Last edited 05/03/15 2:36 pm

      You rip it from the DVD, and then burn it to the hard drive. So while they left out the ripping part, I think it was used correctly.

        I've never heard of "burning" something to a hard drive. "Burning" refers to writing to optical media where a laser physically burns the photosensitive dye in the disk.

    Nope you cover all of it, but you need to add an addition to the part of being a pirate... Do not sell the booty, just share it out for free with your shipmates arrrrr or be locked in the brig like a common criminal for as long as a murderer would get. Also make sure to reward the studio by buying a streaming version or physical disk when given the opportunity, or if your really broke then tell other people to go buy it cause it's good - else the studios will stop making good movies/songs in the future and we'll be left with nothing to fill in our free time but cover bands and cheap remakes.

    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.

    Is it really yours to keep forever though? Unless I've read into it wrong, you have to use an 'approved' app to play the encrypted proprietary files which to me is just a form of filthy DRM.

    I'm in the process of ripping my entire Blu-ray library with MakeMKV with barely any compression and HD audio retained. At approximately 35GB per movie, it requires a lot of storage, but it's certainly more flexible and 'future proof' for my purposes. Even if MKV isn't a reliable storage method in future, then I can always convert them.

      I'm pretty sure UV locks it from one of two choices, but each one locks you out from certain devices

    Or you could just throw your scruples out the porthole and become a filthy pirateYou shouldn't wear your heart on your sleave Chris.


        I'm going to assume you're new here, and just say that grammar trolls aren't appreciated at all.

          dont knead a coma after the word hear most probabully, cos, i think an and, is o.k

    You could go to a shop and buy a DVD. It's an electronic copy that you don't need to spend any bandwidth to download. Even comes with its own storage media so you don't waste any hard drive space!

      When was the last time you bought a CD? Last I checked they cost a bloody fortune, specially Blueray. Definitely cheaper to buy a downloaded copy and store it on a HDD or NAS.

        I still buy plenty of CDs, because they can often be found cheaper than their iTunes equivalent, sound better and include a physical backup I can use in my CD player. They're DRM free and I can rip them to a lossless format like ALC or FLAC with a minimum of fuss. It's fun for people to be able to come over and put an album on without me having to surrender my phone to them or fire up the TV.

        That being said, I also love Spotify.

        DVDs, not so much. Because of the DRM it's often more convenient and easier to acquire vide through other channels.

          Actually, when I said Cd, I meant DVD. I tend to only use one or two songs from an album, so other means is more beneficial for me on that count.

            Actually, I still buy plenty of DVDs partly because I want to have a physical copy, but mostly because my broadband is [email protected] for streaming.
            I'll sometimes download a movie or couple of episodes of a TV series. If I like it, I buy the DVD.

              If you're OK spending, what, $20 to $30, or more for a DVD, and God how much are Bluerays nowadays? that's your choice. Personally, I think that price sucks, and I can get the show at the earliest opportunity, rather than waiting for the thing to be sold on hard copy months down the line. Plus, I don't collect movies, I tend not to watch them more than once, so it's wasted money in my case.

              Last edited 06/03/15 3:12 pm

                I rarely pay more that $20 for a DVD, typically more around $12.00, which is about on par with most digital distribution stores. The difference is DVD is less encumbered by DRM, so I can play it on my MacBook Pro, DVD player and also rip it for playing on any of the media players in the house.

      Why would I spend an hour to get dressed, get in my vehicle, burn gas and breathe second-hand smoke driving to a store, wade through a sea of smelly landwhales, look for the title I want, stand in a checkout line, immediately throw away paper receipt and plastic bag waste, and then burn more gas and breathe more second-hand smoke driving home... when I can just waddle my unwashed butt to the computer and download it in about 45 seconds? Fail suggestion.

    Does UltraViolet allow you to download copies and store them on a plex server? This is pretty much the only thing keeping me in the realm of...ah..."crowd-sourced" movies and TV shows. There are next to no ways that I've found of buying movies and TV shows and storing them on my Plex server. A number of times I've bought a DVD and then gone home and torrented it because it was easier that finding my portable DVD reader and copying it over.

      Ultraviolet has DRM so I'm gonna guess no. The original letter author is named file hoarder, so I'm guessing they don't want DRM files because they will obviously break a lot sooner in the future than DRM free. So I'm not sure why ultraviolet or pretty much anything other than Louis C K and torrents were even mentioned.

    Streaming is fine - PROVIDED you have a decent Internet connection. Without that, you really want to "buffer" by downloading at a rate slower than the play speed. The safest buffer is to download the whole show before you watch.
    Whether you keep the show afterwards is another topic.

      Yup, this. The internet is glacial where I live, so I'm looking on in frustration at the streaming services available, knowing that all I'd get is a horrendous stop/start/buffer experience.

        Have you looked at insulation your pipes? Perhaps installing a radiator? That should unfreeze your internet.

    Movie Berry you pay:
    $0.95 - Phone quality
    $1.95 - PC quality
    $2.95 - HD quality

    Or $119.95 for unlimited movies/TV shows for 90 days.

    The download link lasts 48 hours and can download the movie or TV show as many times as you like. Decently new films some times they are a bit slack but overall good quality.

    Just want to say that I'm not affiliated with them just a happy customer.

      Lols, PC quality. That could be anything from 480p, 1080p to 4k. Marketing department, bah!

    Don't forget about! We offer thousands of movies to rent or own (available on or before DVD release date) and the best thing is we don't tie you to any device ecosystem. Your EzyFlix purchases can be viewed on almost any device including iOS or Android tablets/phones, PC/MAC, Chromecast and Samsung SMART TVs. You can also redeem your UltraViolet codes through

      Ultraviolet is atrocious.

      Last edited 06/03/15 12:53 pm

      And we have to us an app on each device? What happens in the future when you drop support for my device or I want to use an unsupported device?

    ...and this is why we pirate - it's too inconvenient to purchase legally even when you want to. I can spend 5 seconds pirating it right now and watch it offline on any media playing device I want and with any media playing software I want.

    That would be great if we knew of a place to be able to pirate. But not all of us have that information

    I prefer to have my own downloaded digital copies of movies and tv shows for a couple of reasons. 1) I don't like the idea of paying a monthly fee to watch my programs. 2) NBN sucks - even on a powerful gaming laptop and paying extra for boosted speed there are interruptions and stalls to your viewing. The problem is finding good download services that don't cost the earth. For example, my favorite tv show Criminal Minds; if I were to purchase the physical disks on Ebay for the first 11 seasons I could get them for $146au but to buy the digital downloads from iTunes would cost me double! I think that it's ludicrous to have to pay so much for digital downloads - after all they don't need to produce a physical disk or packaging or anything.

    I am attempting to find and download a television show from Canada. After looking for a time I find a website in Ukrainian called simple movie. I'm thinking join the site use paypal download the show episodes I need and then I'm done. I join up and what do I find? the site uses credit -/- debit cards no. I really need a legal international Itunes alternative to download from.

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