OutNow: a look back

outnow dvd rental

It's tough being an independent DVD rental site in a market where Lovefilm, Blockbuster and, increasingly, online streaming rule.

OutNow was one site that outlasted most of their competitors, up until December 2011.

Here's our look back at the site: their brief high point and their many lows.

OutNow: a short history

OutNow was originally called My Movie Stream and, indeed, remained technically owned by My Movie Stream Limited until the company was bought out in 2011.

My Movie Stream was registered in 2004 and within a few years was one of the biggest names in DVD rental alongside sites like Video Island, Lovefilm and Blockbuster.

In 2007, My Movie Stream the site was rate as 'the UK's best online DVD rental service' by Which? magazine and had managed to ink agreements with a number of prominent partners including The Sun and Egg credit cards.

In 2008, My Movie Stream changed their name to OutNow and launched an updated website.

What went wrong

In 2008, when Lovefilm bought Amazon's DVD rental business, the Office of Fair Trading assessed competition in the market as good: there were 12 online DVD rental businesses, they said.

Where Amazon and Video Island had gone, however, many others soon followed.

One by one, DVD rental businesses were either bought out by Lovefilm or slowly died off as the brand overshadowed them.

That, in large part, seems to be what happened to OutNow.

That 2008 site redesign looked pretty swish at the time but the site was never really revamped again and soon began to look dated.

For unknown reasons, customer service from the site took a real nosedive too and a bad reputation started to build.

Free trial complaints

One particular bugbear was complaints about OutNow's 'one month free trial'.

At this time, all the DVD rental sites offered free trials of one form or another and it was common for households to try them out without incurring any charge, by cancelling before the trial ended.

Wherever you went this was always a bit of a risky move - as it was intended to be, the sites wanted consumers to start paying as soon as possible - but OutNow seemed to take 'soon' a little too far in many cases.

There were many complaints that OutNow had charged customers even when they'd tried to cancel. Our review always carried a warning.

MBL buyout

In February 2011, these problems finally came to a head: OutNow DVD rental were bought out by the MBL group, a home entertainment distributor and wholesaler.

OutNow joined a company which had been somewhat troubled in the past year.

After losing an important deal with supermarket chain Morrison's MBL was forced to announce that profits for the financial year would be below expectations and the group's share prices fell.

OutNow said it would gain increased investment from the deal and be able to expand.

The company even hinted that they'd be entering the competitive online streaming space, since MBL claimed to have made "significant investments in digital and online capability platforms" when announcing their profit warning at the end of last year.

Sadly, however, it was not to be.

Having given the company a through going over, MBL found them wanting and the site went into Creditors' Voluntary Liquidation in December 2011.

At that point, OutNow had lost £152,000 since the start of the tax year.

OutNow affiliates

Like most DVD rental sites of its generation, OutNow ran a lot of 'white label' sites.

Big brands just stuck their name on the service, threw some money at marketing and left the rest in the not always particularly safe hands of OutNow.

The Sun Movie Club

The Sun was an early ally of My Movie Stream and had its own rental service from the middle of 2008.

It was cheap and cheerful and, upon launch, it even offered a whopping two month free trial.

The service ceased trading in early 2009 at which point customers should have been simply moved to the OutNow branded service.

However, by November 2009 a steady trickle of complaints from customers who used to use the service - citing continuing direct debits, DVDs turning up randomly and being unable to cancel subscriptions - had ended up at Choose Towers.

One ex user said they had temporarily cancelled their membership three months ago but received two DVDs through their letterbox, completely out of the blue.

Others say that they were not even made aware that The Sun Movie Club had been merged into the OutNow service and couldn't work out why they were still being billed and are unable to log in to The Sun's website.

"In the lead up to the changeover, we provided clear, prominent messaging on the websites and via various customer communications, especially email. We also set the system to allow the original Sun Movie Club customers to log in via the OutNow site," David Morley, director of sales and marketing at OutNow, told us.

"The OutNow service boasts a range of additional features and benefits and I'm pleased to confirm that the overwhelming majority of customers who have made contact with us have been highly complimentary and pleased with the changes," he added

Lidl Movies

Lidl also went down the cheap and cheerful route when they launched a DVD rental service in October 2009.

In Lidl's case the service had a clear competitor - Tesco DVD rental, powered by Lovefilm - which was, until Lidl came along, the UK's cheapest service.

Lidl Movies lasted for as long as OutNow did.

Empire Movie Club

In April 2010, the Empire Movie club launched with the benefit of OutNow DVD rental's 65,000-strong catalogue of titles as well as a unique offer - 6 months worth of free cinema tickets.

Unfortunately, the many little catches - it was one free Cineworld cinema ticket but was only available when booked online for a Monday showing - may have put some potential customers off.

Again, the service lasted as long as OutNow did.

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