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Why renting Blu-ray movies makes perfect sense

Do you rent films in Sony's Blu-ray format for high-definition viewing? The quality of streamed films and regular DVDs does not compare, and buying Blu-ray Discs is too expensive.

Sony's Blu-ray Disc is arguably overpriced and overhyped, and it probably won't be nearly as successful as DVD, but I came across an interesting tidbit of information over the weekend that may make some change their minds about the success of the high-definition video format.

According to Nielsen VideoScan figures for the week ending February 22, Blu-ray captured 10 percent market share, and sales were up 29.31 percent over the same week last year. DVD captured the remaining 90 percent share, but its revenues were down almost 12 percent, year over year.

Granted, that's just one week's figures, and it doesn't mean much in the broader sense, but if you look at previous weeks, those figures are much the same. In fact, Blu-ray is slowly gaining ground on DVD, and its 10 percent share is actually an impressive figure, given its history.

I usually spend my video-allocated cash on other formats, but there is one place where Blu-ray will always win out for me: rentals. I won't stream films, and I won't rent DVDs. Blu-ray is the only format that I will rent from my local video store or get from Netflix. It's as simple as that.

I've had too many lackluster experiences with streaming films. More often than not, if I stream a film through my cable video-on-demand box, it will look grainy, and its quality is the same as DVD even though it's advertised as an HD film. I watched "W" recently via a stream, and along with an absolutely ludicrous story, I found that the film's visual and audio quality were downright awful. But the worst part was having paid $4.99 for a DVD-quality film that was supposed to be in high definition.

The same is true (in most cases) when I stream films through my Apple TV. More often than not, the "HD" film doesn't look nearly as nice as it should, and part of that is due to the fact that those films are available only in 720p, but the other part is that, well, they're just not that great over a streaming solution.

In my long search for great visuals, I've decided to rent Blu-ray films. Notice how I said rent? Yeah, well, I still won't buy them--they're too expensive.

And I'm starting to believe I'm not alone. According to market research firm Adams Research, film studios witnessed a 23.4 percent decline in DVD and Blu-ray sales during the fourth quarter of 2008. Although the company didn't break out sales of Blu-ray and DVD, and failed to mention why it believed this happened besides the economy, I don't think that it's a stretch to say more folks are switching to Blu-ray and choosing rentals over retail.

Blu-ray simply looks best on my HDTV. It may not provide a huge value jump over DVD, and more often than not, the difference in picture quality is negligible, when I compare it to a film in my upconverting DVD player, but for $1 more at my local Hollywood Video or Netflix, it's worth using the next-generation format and finding those certain films that really do look much better on Blu-ray than anything else (I'm looking at you, "Dark Knight").

At this point, when I'm ready to start watching a film at my house, I want the most value for my money. I can't get that with streaming services today because so far, at least in my experience, their ease of use is overshadowed by their general lack of outstanding visual and audio quality. And I won't rent DVDs because it doesn't make much sense, when Blu-ray films are available in the next shelf over for $1 or $2 more. The price difference is so small that it makes perfect sense for me to look for the film on Blu-ray.

When the price difference becomes negligible between the two formats on store shelves, that's when I'll start buying Blu-ray films by the bushel. But until then, Blu-ray's niche in my entertainment life is in rentals, where the price difference is slight, and the relative quality is great.

It's the perfect rental format.

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