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:
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.
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.