There are rumors swirling that YouTube is about to roll out a new movie streaming service sometime this week. Media outlets such as Engadget are quoting The Wrap, which claims to have insider sources---anonymous, of course---suggesting that the video giant has finally wrapped up deals with all the major Hollywood studios, and could begin renting a huge number of new titles any day now.
Of course, renting movies is nothing new for YouTube. They've been doing it for quite a while. In fact, you can go to their page and rent movies like Clerks 2, Stir of Echoes, or 3:10 to Yuma (which is a great movie, by the way). They're only $2 each. Here's a shot of the Store page:
But the new rental service is much larger in scope, according to these mysterious sources. Specifically, YouTube is rumored to have finalized content deals with Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, and Universal.
The new service is said to resemble Apple's iTunes store, which sells songs, movies, and more, and would give YouTube the same early access to films that iTunes enjoys (meaning they'll get the titles as they're released on DVD). Everyone writing about it seems pretty darn sure it's a legitimate rumor, but officially YouTube isn't saying:
"We've steadily been adding more and more titles since launching movies for rent on YouTube over a year ago and now have thousands of titles available. Outside of that, we don't comment on rumor, or speculation.”
It makes all kinds of sense for everyone involved. Just listen to what one of the anonymous studio-insider sources said about the deal:
"We think it will start with VOD, but broaden to include sell-through over time... We are pretty excited because we are happy to see new entrants come in transactionally rather than a subscription model.”
Who doesn't like this news? Probably Apple--not that anyone's going to challenge iTunes' dominance anytime soon. Red Box probably hates this news, because they can't get back inside that DVD release window. Netflix isn't likely to be a big fan, but I doubt they're too worried. As Engadget points out, they have more subscribers than Comcast does... Netflix is doing just fine.
But still... this could be the first baby steps toward a serious challenge by YouTube to all competitors in the online video rental and purchase space. They've already got the built in customer base and the distribution model. All that was lacking was access to the top tier content, and it sounds like that final hurdle may have just recently been overcome.