While some people clearly disagree with the opinion that Blu-Ray discs don't really matter anymore, there are a number of viable alternatives, especially for users who don't have an HDTV and consume all of their media from their laptops or desktops.
By far, one of the most popular ways of "renting" media is iTunes. The rented files will allow you to watch the movies and shows, but then the DRM files expire after 30 days, which is quite a long time. Prices start off at $0.99 and go up to $3.99 for movie rentals. By comparing costs to popular movie rental stores, it's safe to say that renting actual Blu-Ray discs is cheaper. However, there iTunes is very convenient and you are no longer location-dependent.
Netflix recently offered a new streaming only service, which costs $7.99 a month. For this price, you can stream media directly from Netflix to your Xbox 360, PS3, internet-enabled HDTV, computer, and mobile devices. If you'd rather rent DVDs or Blu-Ray discs, then you'll find that their costs have gone up. The basic plan for 1 disc out at a time now costs $9.99. Netflix offers a 1-month free trial.
3. Hulu Plus
Hulu Plus offers the same service as Netflix, minus the actual Blu-Ray rental option. For the same price, $7.99, you basically get access to a bunch of TV shows. Hulu Plus offers a 1-week free trial.
Boasting a library of over 3,000 movie titles in HD quality, Vudu is an interesting alternative to the big three mentioned. The price of rentals varies from $0.99 to $5.99, and you can even rent some movies that are in theaters. If you absolutely need HD quality, then this is the service to choose.
What's the big difference between Hulu Plus and Netflix? You'd think that they would easily duplicate content, but Hulu Plus has a bigger library of the current shows on TV while Netflix has a better archive of older TV shows. Netflix has a huge library of movies as well. Hulu's service benefits from a better quality HD streaming service, thanks to the fact that it features a lot of new shows, which are already broadcast in HD. Hulu's speed of delivery and notification of speed changes is more sophisticated than Netflix's. These two services complement each other quite well and many users have accounts with both to cover their rental needs.