Google Play Movies Review

by David Loft posted December 4th 2012

File Under Web

Google has been renting movies through Google Play for a while now but finally brought the option to buy movies to Canada about six weeks ago. After testing it out for the past month I decided it was time to share my thoughts and experiences with the service.

First and foremost, the content selection, or as it pertains to Google Play Movies the lack of content, is a big issue.

I made a list of my favorite 85 movies that I would want in my movie collection. Unfortunately only 52 of those are available to purchase and of the remaining 33, 17 are only available to rent. This includes the just released Dark Knight Rises as Google only has a license to rent Warner Bros movies.

Just to note, these are not obscure indie movies, all 85 of these movies are mainstream big studio Hollywood movies. As such there really is no excuse for the missing content. Especially considering iTunes has just about everything available to buy and rent. I say just about, because even with iTunes there is one holdout, Star Wars. But maybe with the sale to Disney that will change.

The availability issue is odd, do the studios not realize that broader availability means more opportunity for sales.

I know they don't like the power that Apple has with iTunes. So why are they not willing to support a competitor. My only guess is they dislike Google even more. I know the studios want Google to curate their search results to filter for illegal content. I understand that point of view but the internet user in me wants Google to show the internet as it is, the good and the bad. A search engine should not be curated or held accountable, it is just a reflection of us and the internet. As such I don't think it's Google's responsibility to police the internet.

The problem is Google will have to gimp their search just to be able to acquire licensing deals to sell content. Not a great position to be in, especially going forward as the need for a strong content ecosystem can make or break a platform. While at the same time a weakening of search can deteriorate their primary business model.

Unfortunately the issues with Google Play Movies doesn't end there as pricing is just too high, especially in Canada.

While the latest and greatest Blu-Ray can easily sell for more than $30. They often start in the mid $20 and after a few months can often be found for less. New HD movies on Google Play typically hit $20 US and $25 CAD and sales are few and far between. The video and audio quality as well as the features one gets with digital cannot compare with Blu-Ray. So I see no reason it should be the same price.

Now you can't really blame Google for the pricing. I compared iTunes, Amazon instant video and Vudu with Google Play and pricing was the same across the board. So clearly the studios are to blame as they don't want to hurt sales of producing and distributing data stored on plastic discs. Unfortunately for them, consumers of digital content unwilling to pay high prices will be more likely to pirate than be pushed to outdated physical media.

The other thing that's really troubling is the fact that HD content is only available on Android.

If you want to watch Google Play movies on your computer, your stuck with SD content. This is not going to win anyone over especially when competing with iTunes, which offers HD content on the PC, Mac and iOS devices.

Amazon just like Google offers streaming movies to the PC, but also only in SD. I originally thought that the studios just didn't allow streaming HD content through the browser but then I checked Vudu. Vudu offers 720p and 1080p content through the browser. So that throws that theory out of the water and puts a big question mark over what Google and Amazon are doing.

This is the biggest sticking point for me as I use a HTPC for all my HDTV needs. So an inability to do HD is deal killer. As it stands now I have to plug my phone in my TV with HDMI to get HD content to my TV and the best it can do is 720p with 2 channel audio. How this is supposed to compete with pirated 7 channel DTS 1080p MKV's is beyond me.

This needs to get better and quickly as the market for physical movies will inevitable decline.

I dropped cable TV and physical movies 8 years ago and haven't looked back. Unfortunately up to this point there are still very few places to get content and pirated content is still the easiest most versatile of the options with the broadest selection. It seems the movie studios have yet to learn what the record labels learned many years ago and as such they're doomed to repeat. Hopefully what rises from the ashes will be much better for the consumer than what we have today.

Oh and on a side note I found one peculiar thing with Google Play. If I pinned a movie to my Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus, the file downloaded to the phone was always 50% bigger. Which is just pure crazy considering the surface area of the Nexus 7 is about 3 times the size. Just another oddity I found in using Google Play Movies. A couple other features I would like to see is the ability to upgrade a rental to a purchase and to upgrade for SD to HD. All in all, Google has a lot of work left to do.

Source: Google Play Movies


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