YouTube Now in the Movie Rental Business

Posted by at 10:44 am on May 10, 2011

YouTube followed up its teaser with confirmation that it was bringing major movies to its rental service. Many of the 3,000-plus movie titles being added Monday are from three of the four major movie studios, including NBC-Universal, Sony, and Warner. The mix includes both classics and newer titles such as Inception.

Many titles have extras linked off of their main pages, such as interviews or related videos on YouTube. Movies would be available on any computer that can see YouTube, although product managers Camille Hearst and Matt Darby didn’t say whether the service would be available through mobile apps.

The company was vague on costs but promised “industry standard pricing.” Top-tier content would start showing up Monday night but would roll out gradually over the next few weeks.

YouTube’s rollout follows nearly a year of preparation and an initial service that focused exclusively on indie titles from inside and outside of the US. Some of the wait has come from needs to reassure major studios worried over piracy, such as by acquiring Widevine for copy protection and a takeover of fflick for movie reviews. Many of the pages also tie into Rotten Tomatoes for a quick overview.

The rental scheme isn’t Google’s first attempt to compete directly with Apple in a media store, having launched its bookstore earlier, but does represent its first attempt at challenging services that have been core to iTunes, Zune Marketplace, and other services for years.

Options such as Blockbuster have existed in the past but have never been available on all or even most Android devices due to the variety of devices and fragmented copy protection system in Android 2.x and earlier. A recent update added Widevine to Android 3.0 and should give tablet owners access to YouTube movies while reassuring studios anxious about stream ripping.

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