YouTube expands its movie rentals

YouTube is adding 3,000 movie titles to its rental offerings to U.S. users, as well as "bolstering" investments in content produced exclusively for its service.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
YouTube's movie rental page.
YouTube's movie rental page CNET

As part of an effort to get YouTube visitors using the site for things besides user-made videos, YouTube is expanding its professionally produced offerings as well as increasing investments in its own programs, confirming reports from last month suggesting that the company wanted to add to its exclusive programming.

In a blog post, the video site announced today that it's adding some 3,000 new movies from studios like NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros.

"Today, we're going to start adding around 3,000 new movie titles for rent available to users in the U.S. (more on this in a post later today) that will be accompanied by reviews and behind-the-scenes movie extras," said Salar Kamangar, head of YouTube, in a post on the company's blog. "Whether it's short movie trailers, funny movie parodies or full-length blockbuster films, we encourage you to sit back and settle in to the YouTube movies experience."

All told, the new wave of content doubles YouTube's rental library, pushing it to more than 6,000 titles. A YouTube representative told CNET that the first wave of that expansion will go live on the site later today.

Along with the rentals announcement, Kamangar noted that the company is "bolstering" its investments in original content.

"Our 20,000+ partners--folks like Machinima, Annoying Orange and Ryan Higa--are producing original content for the web and commanding TV-size audiences for their own brand of programming," Kamangar wrote. "In the coming year, we'll bring even more content to YouTube. Building on the success of Partner Grants and YouTube NextUp, we're providing even more resources to creators who you'll know from TV or Hollywood, and to existing YouTube partners who have already built loyal audiences on the site."

Kamangar added that details on the company's additional investments would arrive "in the coming months."

A report last month by The Wall Street Journal suggested that Google planned to spend as much as $100 million to develop original content for its service, as well planned a redesign of the site to more clearly divide content up into channels that users could surf like TV channels.

YouTube first began offering video rentals at the beginning of last year as part of a deal with the Sundance film festival. Since then, the company has expanded its offerings to include more mainstream content. These rental titles cost $3.99, with older "library" titles starting at $2.99. Once purchased, users have 30 days to begin watching a video, then 24 hours to finish as soon as it's been started.

A report by The Wrap near the end of April suggested that Google had finally wrapped up licensing deals with Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., and Universal to get movies from those studios onto YouTube's system, all of which were confirmed in today's announcement. Following its initial report, The Wrap said Fox, Disney, and Paramount were not on board as part of this content rollout after citing concerns over piracy.

In the blog post, Kamangar noted that people spend an average of five hours a day watching TV, but just 15 minutes on YouTube. That works out to 2 billion videos a day, many of which are just a few minutes long. By adding long-form, professionally produced content, the company hopes to stretch those times out to compete with traditional entertainment sources.

"As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, we think that's going to change," Kamangar said.