updated 05:45 pm EST, Wed January 20, 2010
YouTube to test rentals with limited run
YouTube on Wednesday revealed that it will start offering video rentals through its site. In sync with the Sundance Film Festival, the host plans to rent movies from the 2009 and 2010 Sundance festivals as well as "other U.S. partners." Those from the festivals will be available through to January 31st, while other movies and videos should be available in the weeks ahead.
The Google-owned site says the expansion into rentals is part of a move away from ad-only revenue and that it gives content providers much more control over how video content is shown. Those signed up to the YouTube system will not only have the option of setting the price but also the rental period and where it can be found.
It's not known if or when the service would become permanent, but for now it will use Google Checkout to handle payments.
Launching into rentals instantly puts YouTube into competition, albeit on a minor scale, with other video content providers such as its one-time closest partner Apple as well as Amazon VOD, Zune Marketplace and others. YouTube has steadily been working towards more lucrative content by incorporating ads and giving professional outlets special portals such as the music video hub Vevo, but without paid content many full-length commercial videos have remained out of bounds.
For now, the service is nonetheless more limited as it doesn't allow playing videos on devices that don't use Flash, such as the iPhone, TiVo or others that simply get direct access to the videos.