YouTube recently announced that they would be testing a video rental service via their site. As a "Beta Test," they've partnered with Sundance Film Festival and have five films available. It seems they will be available for rent until the end of the month.
How does it work?
YouTube is using Google Checkout, that poorly designed, half-baked Google version of Paypal (that I personally wish they would use to crush Paypal). That means that anyone outside of the US could have problems since Checkout has had, in my experience, loads of problems with foreign credit cards. So if you've got an account and/or register for one you'll head back over to YouTube and then be able to purchase the rental.
Here are the five films they're "testing" with:
- "Children of Invention" explores the American Dream as seen through the eyes of a Chinese American family living in suburban Boston.
- In " ," a prisoner on work release and a live-wire kook take a day-long ride in a seemingly stolen vehicle that neither of them will soon forget.
- In " " an elite team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers embark on a covert mission to penetrate a remote and hidden cove in Japan, and shine a light on a dark and deadly secret.
- When humble Linas, kicked off of his friends couch and spurned by his lover, finds a forgotten van on a llama farm outside Seattle, he begins lurching east with nothing to lose in "Bass Ackwards."
- In "One Too Many Mornings," Fisher and Pete are two dudes with dude problems — one drinks too much and one just got cheated on by his girlfriend — and few prospects of helping each other out.
Honestly, if they are going to seriously try their hand at this then they need to use more than just Google Checkout with its limited scope and random non-acceptance of even UK cards. Perhaps, if we're all really lucky, this test will go well and push them to make Checkout into a far more robust system as we, the users, have been asking them to do for a long time. Of course, the test could fail simply because they are using Google Checkout since it is so limited most people don't use it.
What does it mean?
This could mean a great deal of things, not only for GooTube, but for the online video industry in general. Ad spend in the US for online video is expected to grow rapidly through 2014 (see eMarketer image right). With 35% growth per year that's certainly going to mean a lot of ad money and placements to fuel something like this and with GooTube being hooked into Adsense and the whole Google machine, it seems only right that a lot of that money would get funneled into the service. That could trickle down to Partners who are publishing unique content on the site as well which would be good for them.
Of course it could also be bad for the industry. If GooTube becomes the de facto online video rental and viewing service then the pond might dry up for the rest of us who are publishing video content and trying to make a few bucks off of it. If suddenly 90% of all video traffic starts going to them, that means very little left over for everyone else to fight over. Do we really want YouTube to be the hottest online video sharing and hottest video rental destination on Internet?
Perhaps with the continued growth in ad spend online there will still be a cornucopia of content for us to serve up to the consumer masses and it won't affect our bottom lines. In terms of dollars the online video ad industry is predicted to be worth $5.2 Billion where it was only $1B last year (also from eMarketer).
When YouTube does something it's never clear-cut why they do it. The HTML 5 videos for example. I'm certain that they won't be able to use that for this service anytime soon now will they? Considering that it can't even handle annotations and subtitles, how would it ever manage a pay-to-play system? (I'm sure it could be done with other scripting).
I guess we'll just have to, like all things GooTube, wait and see. Perhaps this is just another way for them to turn a big fat profit on the site they never tell us is profitable (though we suspect it is already).