updated 06:55 pm EDT, Sun August 29, 2010
Google plans global paid movies through YouTube
An inside news tip this evening has hinted that Google plans to significantly expand its YouTube movie rentals to a full-fledged, worldwide service. Several contacts told the Financial Times that talks are underway for a service that would stream major movie releases and which would be tied into both Google's search engine and YouTube. Movies would cost $5 to rent and would be available at the same time as on Blu-ray, DVD and Internet services.
The company is reportedly aiming for an end-of-year unveiling. It would launch in the US first, but it would eventually spread to other countries.
Movie studios have been characterized as eager due to the potential reach and the rapidly shifting nature of the movie industry. Since Google could wield its control of search and video to steer customers in, it has been promising "a huge number" of customers that could eclipse any traditional pay-per-view TV channel. Physical disc sales have been dropping quickly, and the amount of online traffic could make up for the difference, the tipsters added. Rental stores have faced the clearest trouble in recent months as Blockbuster is nearing bankruptcy and has had to close stores in the wake of more convenient and cheaper services from Netflix and most other Internet-based competitors.
Google is said to have been in negotiations for months and has already dropped repeated hints of its plans, first with trials and later with a limited service that focuses on independent movies. Efforts may have accelerated in recent weeks due to competition; Apple's rumored upcoming iTV would depend almost exclusively on streaming movies and TV shows to lower its price. Streaming iTunes video could arrive as soon as Apple's music event this Wednesday and could be a boon to the iPhone and iPad by reducing the need for a large amount of free space.
For Google, a YouTube-based movie service could potentially aid Android as well, although a streaming-only solution in its case could require Flash and thus only a handful of the most recent Android phones.