YouTube bolsters its movie rental service with 3,000 Hollywood titles
Google Inc.'s online video service YouTube dramatically expanded its movie rental service Monday with the addition of 3,000 titles from major Hollywood studios, positioning it to capitalize on the growing number of Internet-connected televisions and portable devices.
Details are still emerging, but YouTube chief Salar Kamangar said in a blog post that the site's millions of users will be able to watch "full-length blockbuster films," trailers and behind-the-scenes extras. YouTube did not identify participating studios, but Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures are all expected to offer their movies on the same day that the films are available on other on-demand services.
Other studios, including Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios, had been reluctant to join because of larger concerns that Google had not done enough to combat online piracy, according to people familiar with the matter.
YouTube, which has been propelled by the popularity of user-created short videos, has been adding more professionally produced content, including music videos, live concerts and sporting events. The service augmented its offerings with more long-form content as users showed a willingness to watch TV shows and movies on their Internet-connected phones and tablet computers.
The site began making movies from the Sundance Film Festival available for online rental early last year and offers a limited selection of movies to rent including the Weinstein Co.'s 2006 release "Scary Movie 4" and the 2007 slasher flick "Saw IV."
"Six years ago, there were just two types of video: video you watched on your TV and video you watched on your laptop," Kamangar wrote in a YouTube blog post Monday morning. "Today, there's increasingly just video and it's available everywhere: on a phone, a tablet, a laptop or a television screen."
Kamangar wrote that the addition of more Hollywood movies helps position YouTube for the day when the distinctions between online video and other forms of video -- say, television programming -- disappear. Some 27 million Internet-connected TVs shipped worldwide last year, and the number is expected to grow exponentially to 49.2 million by the end of 2011, according to researcher iSuppli Corp.
-- Dawn C. Chmielewski