Rogers On Demand’s front page.
Canadians looking to rent films on the web now have one more option with the launch of movie rentals from Rogers On Demand Online.
Unfortunately, most of what you need to know about the service right now is captured by a bit of unintended symbolism: upon launching the site, the first film that currently greets you is the Katherine Heigl bomb, The Killers. To wit, though the new service features some recent releases and is relatively painless to use, the paltry selection means people looking to get their cinematic fix online would, at least for now, be better served by Rogers’ competitors.
Rentals from Rogers On Demand Online—or RODO as they call themselves on Twitter—work pretty much the same way they do on iTunes. New releases cost $4.99, while catalogue titles go for $3.99. Upon renting a film, you have thirty days to begin watching it, and once you do you have forty-eight hours to finish before the rental “expires”; you can stop and start the movie as many times as you like during that time.
Watching a film on RODO is quite straightforward: after providing your credit card details, you simply browse through their selection and hit “Rent It.” Streaming starts almost immediately, which is great, but unfortunately the quality is a bit disappointing. On anything larger than a small laptop, it seems about the same as a good YouTube clip, which isn’t terribly impressive. Also, right now, you can only view RODO’s offerings using a web browser on your PC or Mac. Rogers has informed us that they “plan to enable access to [the] site across multiple devices” at some point in the future.
Returning to the issue of selection, or lack thereof: though Rogers tells us they have titles available from studios like MGM, Sony, Maple Pictures, and Warner, there are only about two hundred films in total, a mere twenty of which are new releases. While there are certainly some classics in there—like A Fish Called Wanda and Goodfellas—there’s also a lot of dreck. Rogers has promised, however, that they will continue to add titles, with new releases often appearing on the same day they hit the video stores.
What’s obvious, then, is that the release of RODO rentals was a soft launch, done to test the waters rather than make a splash. Unfortunately, in its current state there are many better options for people looking to save themselves a trip to the video store. iTunes has exponentially more selection for the same prices, plus HD rentals for a buck more. Owners of Sony’s PS3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360 can watch a far wider variety of films on their TVs without the need for a cable bill. And though Netflix contains very few recent releases, for the price of two rentals on RODO you can watch as many of them as you want per month, often in significantly better quality.
It is worth bearing in mind that Rogers On Demand’s original streaming service, which lets you watch a variety of TV shows for free, has steadily improved since its unimpressive launch and become a decent service, so there may be hope for RODO also. For now, though, it seems that Rogers’s choices here may have been motivated by an attempt to not cannibalize revenue at its video stores or through its cable offerings. And fair enough: a company has to be concerned with its bottom line. But Rogers has never been very good at learning that what is best for the company isn’t necessarily what’s good for its customers. Until the selection on Rogers On Demand rentals expands and film quality improves, those in search of movies online are much better off looking elsewhere.