PC World has discovered that YouTube rather stealthily opened up their official rental service, which appears to be called "Store.” You may remember some news about them testing a rental service earlier this year. It seems the testing is over, and the Store is now open to the public.
You can now rent episodes of television shows as well as your favorite movies for between $0.99 and $3.99. You have two days to watch your content once you've paid for it, and then it's gone—so, obviously… don't purchase your rental unless you're ready to watch.
There is still a relatively small amount of content for rent—mostly films from independent studios such as Reservoir Dogs, Precious, Kids, and the Saw movies. The television episodes are even more obscure and limited—they feature four genres of TV shows on the Store homepage, each with four shows spotlighted for each, and I haven't heard of one of them. Clicking through to each genre, and I still haven't heard of any of these shows. And there are only the four categories for TV Shows: Animation & Cartoons, Travel, Documentary & Biography, and Learning & Education.
So YouTube wants to play in the "streaming rentals" pool a bit, eh? I'm fine with that. While I doubt Netflix is going to be quaking in their boots (especially when they see YouTube's selection), this move will ultimately motivate them to continue improving and honing their service. It might take years, but YouTube has a vast following and a trusted brand… if they really want to move into this space, they can.
Of course, it's all going to be about the content. If YouTube can't sign up any film studios and television production houses that appeal to a wider audience, they're going to have a rough go of it. The world doesn't need a service that can be summed up as "like Netflix, but exclusively for independent movies you've never heard of.”
Content availability drives this market, and Netflix has darn near everything. If you want to take on Netflix, you're going to need to add more of the "everything.” Amazon has a ton of content, and even carries the same kind of brand awareness and trust that YouTube has, but has struggled to catch Netflix.
One obvious difference between YouTube's Store and Netflix is the absence of a monthly membership fee with YouTube. It's a la carte. That alone will help them find an initial audience. I've thought a lot about joining Netflix, but I'd be afraid I wouldn't take full enough advantage of it to warrant the recurring expense—I don't have the free time for movie watching that I did when I was in college. So an a la carte option is very attractive to me. Zip in, rent the movie you want to see right now, watch it, and go on about your life.
And YouTube is clearly going to be adding more content to the Store. That's a given. And it's probably why they haven't put out any press release or blog post announcing the roll-out of the rental service—they're surely waiting until they can also make a big splash with news of a new content deal as well.
I'm going to check it out this weekend—there are three movies on the Store's homepage alone that I have wanted to see, and "article research" is the perfect excuse. I'll let you know if there's anything truly great or truly awful about the service that I think you need to know.