After weeks of rumors, anonymous sources, and outright speculation, YouTube has finally gone public with the details of their new movie rental service. Specifically, they've struck deals with NBC/Universal, Sony, & Warner Brothers studios, which leaves several studios that still aren't partners (Fox, Disney, Paramount, etc.)--the company already had deals in place with smaller studios like Lionsgate, The Weinstein Co., and Magnolia Pictures.The new arrangement doubles the size of YouTube's movie rental library from 3,000 to 6,000.

And it's already happened. You can tell with a simple visit to their Movies page that this is a whole new ballgame, as images of Harry Potter and The Social Network stare you in the face:

YouTube Channels Netflix With New Online Movie Rentals movies 600x564

Yup, those are "reel" movies alright, and new ones too. There's The King's Speech, or Inside Job. They have Inception, and even Country Strong. This is instantly a huge upgrade in the quality of content YouTube can offer for rent.

Let's take a look at some of the facts you need to know:

  • Movie rentals are $3.99 for the most part, at least for new movies. Older titles will drop down to $2.99.
  • Most of the films will not be in HD, at least for now, and it has more to do with the studios than with YouTube--which I guess means YouTube would love to give us HD when they are able to get it from their partners.
  • Once you pay for a rental, you have 30 days to view it.
  • Once you start watching your rented film, you have 24 hours to finish it.
  • Some films--but not all--will be available at the same time they come out on DVD.
  • Users are not remotely limited by device, and can take advantage of the rental service on any laptop, desktop, mobile device, or Google TV.
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One of the most interesting new features is the ability to embed a rented movie on your website or blog. Then, users who have not rented the title would see the trailer if they clicked the embed. I suppose they might work in some kind of referral or affiliate promotion related to this feature--if you send traffic that ends up renting the film you embedded, you get a kickback. That, at least, sounds logical.

They're also beefing up the offering with something called Movie Extras, which sounds like YouTube's version of DVD bonus content:

"Many movie pages feature YouTube Movie Extras -- free behind-the-scenes videos, cast interviews, parodies, clips and remixes from YouTube's unique community of content creators. Movie pages also showcase reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, so you'll see feedback from critics before you decide what movie to get into. Over time we'll also be adding additional videos and features to YouTube Movie Extras so that you can get even more into movies on YouTube."

So... what do you think? Is this the big leap into streaming movies we've been expecting from YouTube? Or is it a half-measure? They clearly couldn't strike all the deals they wanted to strike with studios, and there is great movie content they don't have access to because of it. If YouTube can make the new beefed-up Movies offering a success, then the other studios will probably change their tune.

  • Tony D

    2.99 rental fees should be the norm not 3.99 ..if they get greedy thye only send those with limited funds to the pirate versions which are free...the object is to get everyone pay but not a lot.

  • danimations

    Thanks for the info Jeremy... do you know anything about indpendent filmmakers' access to the activating rental services? I'd like to be able to rent out some short film content through the same system in the future...

    • JeremyScott

      I think it's possible, for sure. But you have to apply to be a part of it. And, you have to be a member of the Partner program in order to apply for rentals.

    • Ronnie Bincer

      As a partner (with another channel) on YouTube I can tell you that Partners can simply add a video to the "Rental" area (no need to "apply"). I'm not sure if there is a difference in length allowed for videos that are Rentals... but the process is fairly straight forward. You Upload the video, then tell it you want it to be a "Rental"... you can assign rental terms like how long the Rental Period is, what the Charge is, etc.

      You can also choose a different video to act as a "Trailer" to that rental if you like.

      That is how is has been, not sure if they are going to make changes now that they are expanding the rental library.

      • danimations

        Thanks for the detailed help, VSEO Hound! I remember reading that it was possible when I first joined the partner program last month. I wonder if my first documentary (runtime 16 mins) would qualify. hope so!

  • Ronnie Bincer

    Can you start watching a movie on one computer then pause it and watch it on another (pick up where you left off)? I understand that the rental is tied to your YouTube account, what I am asking, if you know, is can you pause and resume watching on a different device?

    • JeremyScott

      I would have to think so, but I don't know for sure. I'll see if I can't find out.