Discuss: Will YouTube Change the Way You Rent Movies?

Discuss: Will YouTube Change the Way You Rent Movies?

May 10, 2011

Few people ever expected Netflix' innovative movie-streaming business to explode the way it did. As is the case whenever an underdog paves the way, everyone else wants in on the game as well. Blockbuster tried a streaming service, but didn't really succeed. Apple has been pushing iTunes as a rental alternative for a while. A few months ago Amazon got into the movie-streaming arena, giving all of their Amazon Prime subscribers a free subscription to their own on-demand platform filled with free movies and rental titles. Yet despite being a better financial value, Amazon's offer hasn't swayed many Netflix subscribers to cancel their service.

YouTube thinks they can do what Amazon didn't, however, and now they've announced a plan that they hope will poach away the consumer base of both Amazon and Netflix.

Yesterday the Google-owned service began adding some 3,000 new feature films for streaming/rental, located at the easily remembered YouTube.com/movies. A chunk of these are free, but the bulk of these are available on a per title basis at a rate of either $2.99 for older titles or $3.99 for new titles. You can stream these through any computer or through Google TV, but that's it as far as devices go. So the question is, will this change the way you rent movies at all?

For me the answer is... maybe? I have no allegiance to Netflix whatsoever. I love their service, but I'm not blindly loyal. If a better service comes along, I'll gladly switch to it, but no one has offered one yet. I was quite excited when Amazon introduced their OnDemand platform, but despite already having an Amazon Prime subscription, I've yet to stream a single movie from their service. I watch plenty of content on Hulu, including feature films, but again, that only supplements what I already stream from Netflix.

That's just streaming older, catalog movies, though. On an individual, pay-to-rent basis, this new YouTube deal may actually change the way I rent movies. Normally if I'm watching something OnDemand, I'll do so through my cable provider or through the Playstation Network, but those prices are a bit high. YouTube is offering a new movie, in HD, for $3.99; that's half the price I've paid on other services.

I happen to have a Home Theater PC hooked directly up to my TV, though. Most people don't, so the lack of device support on YouTube's end means that few people are going to jump at the lower prices, unless they're perfectly happy to watch movies on their PCs. If Google is going to pose a serious threat to other online rental outlets, they're going to have to make deals with hardware manufacturers to penetrate the market-- and that's an area they may have a hard time getting into.

But what say you. Will you consider forking over some cash to a cheaper service like YouTube? Or will you continue to rent movies the way you currently do? And if so, what way is that?

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