IMDb, the website many people use to check the rating of a movie, recently launched a streaming service.
The service is called IMDb Freedive, and it is a Netflix-style platform that offers movies and series for free. There is a catch, however – you have to watch adverts.
To find out what the service is like, we gave it a test run.
Freedive is currently only available in the US, and content can be watched on PC web browsers and Amazon Fire TV devices.
“IMDb Freedive offers popular, full-length movies and hit TV shows – for free, with ads. Customers can dive even deeper into the titles they are watching on IMDb Freedive by using X-Ray, which is powered by the authoritative information on IMDb about cast, crew, trivia, soundtracks and more,” said IMDb.
“We will continue to enhance IMDb Freedive based on customer feedback and will soon make it available more widely, including on IMDb’s leading mobile apps,” added the company. This includes adding more content to the platform.
While the service is only available in the US, we were able to sign up and watch content using a VPN and setting our location to New York, USA.
It must be noted that this will have an affect on your streaming performance, due to increased latency and slower speeds via a VPN’s network.
Before we started viewing content, we conducted a speed test and found the following:
- Download – 2.0Mbps
- Upload – 3.5Mbps
- Latency – 236ms
After connecting to the VPN, we signed up for Freedive using an email address and by creating a password.
Once logged in, you are greeted with a home screen displaying top-rated movies, TV shows, and IMDB originals.
The movies on offer included Memento, Big Fish, Drive, The Last Samurai, and Gattaca.
TV series available included Heroes, Without a Trace, Dallas, Kitchen Nightmare, and many other shows we had never heard of. The IMDb originals included Casting Calls, The IMDb Show, and No Small Parts.
For the first streaming test we opened the movie The Last Samurai.
Before the movie started a 10-second intro message played saying welcome to IMDb Freedive. This plays at the start of any piece of content you watch.
After the intro the movies began, and all looked normal.
The quality of the movie was good as we watched on a 27-inch 1080p PC monitor, but navigating to the playback settings stated “HD” quality was not available.
“Good, Better, and Best” streams were on offer, but HD was restricted.
This may have been due to our slow Internet speed, as the hardware we were using was more than capable – a new 15-inch MacBook Pro and Samsung 27-inch 1080p monitor.
A more likely explanation was IMDb’s statement that our device needed to meet High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection and/or Digital Rights Management requirements to watch HD content.
As stated, the “Best” quality setting was fine for viewing on our monitor, and Freedive stated it uses just over 1GB of data per hour of streaming.
About 10 minutes into The Last Samurai, we were reminded why the streaming platform is free – the first advert played.
Tom Cruise was halfway through some deep introspection about his life as a soldier and, boom, some overly-happy guy comes onto the screen and starts talking about why Verizon is the best mobile network.
Once this was over, another, longer advert began – which was about a man realising his dream of becoming a tattoo artist. Or something about Amazon. We’re not sure.
In total, both adverts were just under a minute long – and for some reason appeared to be in a higher resolution than the movie we were watching.
It was not until we hovered our mouse cursor over the bottom of the screen to access the streaming player’s controls that we realised the true horror of the situation.
Little white markers were placed along the player’s tracking bar and showed when the next advert will play.
The Last Samurai was 2hrs 30mins long, and had 14 advert points along the way. These were evenly spaced out along the tracking bar.
If you fast forward the movie or track to a point beyond a set of adverts, the adverts play as soon as the content starts again.
Fortunately, once you have watched a set of adverts they are removed from the tracking bar and you do not have to watch them again if you rewind.
And no, you cannot skip the adverts.
For the TV series test, we watched an episode of Nightmare Kitchen.
The episode was 40 minutes long, but only had two advert points – which lulled us into a false sense of hope.
While there were only two ad sections, the first one contained four adverts – a short one, two longer ones, and a short one again. They totalled around 2 minutes.
The second ad block contained two 30-second adverts, and all worked in the same way the adverts in the movie did.
Netflix has ruined us
We could go into detail about the pros and the cons of IMDb Freedive and how a free service must fund itself using adverts, but it is not necessary.
The fact of the matter is that unless you are better than Netflix, no one cares.
We want to pay R100 per month, we want all the best content as soon as it launches, we want any resolution we choose, and we do not want adverts.
If you cannot do that, please go away.