YouTube to launch rental service

By Blake Ellis, contributing writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Google Inc.'s YouTube said Wednesday it plans to introduce a movie rental service on Friday.

The video-sharing site is partnering with the Sundance Film Festival to release five films, which users will be able to rent from YouTube on Friday, the company wrote in its blog.

The films -- "Bass Ackwards," "The Cove," "One Too Many Mornings," "Homewrecker" and "Children of Invention" -- were chosen from the 2010 and 2009 festivals, and they will be available for rental until Jan. 31.

On top of these five rentals, a selection of other videos will be offered in the coming weeks, and the company is on the hunt for additional independent filmmakers.

Google's (GOOG, Fortune 500) YouTube is also inviting a number of its partners to participate in the new rental service, allowing those it selects to keep their rights, decide where they want their content to be available, the price of their video and the rental duration.

"Anything that brings more content to the YouTube community is a good thing," the company wrote in its blog. "And making content available for rent will give our partners unprecedented control over the distribution of their work."

The company's decision to launch a film rental service was a natural progression for YouTube, Allen Weiner, an analyst at IT research firm Gartner in Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a blog post.

And Weiner said that in time, YouTube will offer much more than a basic online rental service and may begin distributing the rentals to mobile platforms and OTT TV platforms including Apple TV, Boxee, Wii and PS3.

The fate of YouTube is in Google's hands, and "Google's media strategy is geared to take dead aim at Apple," said Weiner.

"Both companies (along, perhaps with Amazon) will likely become the future archetypes for successful media titans with an emphasis on friction-free, content agnostic, multiplatform monetization," he said. "At this point, it's an interesting blueprint; the devil will be in the details." To top of page

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