We take a look at Rakuten TV, the movie and TV boxset store which comes pre-loaded on a range of streaming devices, smart TVs and set top boxes.
Rakuten TV is a movie and TV rental & ‘buy to keep’ Video on Demand service which is available as an app on most big brand Smart TVs, set top boxes from EE TV and Freesat, Roku streaming sticks, plus Apple and Android phones & tablets and Xbox games consoles.
The service offers a mix of the latest films and shows plus back catalogue favourites, and competes against rivals such as Apple’s iTunes, Google Play and Chili, the Hollywood studio backed service we looked at last Summer.
Content And Pricing
Deals with all the major studios and producers, as well as many independent distributors, means Rakuten TV’s library includes the latest big name films and plenty of major US TV shows.
Shows and films are available in both Standard Definition and High Definition, with selected movies also available in 4K Ultra HD.
Prices vary between titles and, often, picture quality – for example at the time of writing Venom, the superb Halloween reboot and Taron Egerton’s Robin Hood are priced at £3.45 in SD, £4.45 in HD and £5.49 in UHD, but with others (Bohemian Rhapsody, Creed II) there’s a flat £4.99 fee regardless of your preferred picture quality.
As is common across all such services, rented titles are available for 48 hours after you’ve checked out and you can watch your chosen film as many times as you want within that period.
In addition to rentals, you can also buy digital downloads of films and TV shows to keep and watch as many times as you want, allowing you to build up your own streaming library overtime.
As well as credit and debit cards, Rakuten TV also accepts payment via PayPal, and you can also use Rakuten Superpoints which can be collected by shopping at various third party retailers, plus via Rakuten TV itself and Kobo, the Rakuten owned ebook retailer.
It’s also possible to win Superpoints through third parties and redeem them through the site.
I tested the service with a 4K UHD film rental provided by Rakuten TV (I opted for the excellent Creed II) and was impressed both with the picture quality and reliability of the streaming (though this will always depend in part on your broadband connection).
The layout of the Smart TV app makes for an intuitive user experience, with the latest ‘must see’ films clearly presented on the home screen.
If you’re looking for something a little less recent there’s an easily accessible search feature and for those after something to suit their mood, genre-based categories are also on hand.
The acceptance of PayPal means you won’t have to mess around updating payment card details, and the awarding of points each time you rent a film is a nice touch, though you’d need to rent a fair number to amass enough to redeem against a future rental.
As noted above, Rakuten TV is available on a wide range of devices.
If you’re only renting movies this may not seem important, but if you’re thinking of investing in a library of ‘buy to keep’ content it’s worth considering upfront whether you really want to be tied to a service with limited availability or whether you want the flexibility to change TVs and set top boxes without losing access to your purchases.
An easy to use, well designed service with a good selection of movies and TV shows and the fact you can watch purchased content on a wide range of devices is a major ‘plus’ over the limited hardware support of some rival services, such as Apple’s iTunes.