YouTube has sat among the top three or four websites online for some time now. It's the bane of system administrators' lives, sucking up bandwidth with higher and higher resolution video, and eats capped data plans for lunch. And now, as we've anticipated for some time, YouTube is offering streaming video rentals from big-name studios, going head to head with Netflix.
In a blog post today, the company outlined its plans to become a dominant player in the video rental industry, even if it is a bit late to the party:
In addition to the hundreds of free movies available on the site since 2009, you will be able to find and rent some of your favorite films. From memorable hits and cult classics like Caddyshack, Goodfellas,Scarface, and Taxi Driver to blockbuster new releases like Inception, The King’s Speech, Little Fockers, The Green Hornet and Despicable Me. Movies are available to rent at industry standard pricing, and can be watched with your YouTube account on any computer...With 35 hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube, there’s a sea of content that can add to your movie experience. Many movie pages feature YouTube Movie Extras -- free behind-the-scenes videos, cast interviews, parodies, clips and remixes from YouTube’s unique community of content creators.
This actually reinforces my belief that Google doesn't need to invent a new social platform. Not only can it aggregate content from existing social networks, but it also has YouTube. YouTube's built-in commenting, subscriptions, and video response mechanisms make the site a robust and extremely modern social network. Video remains the next frontier on the web and it only makes sense that a social approach to video is the next frontier of social media.
YouTube is also adding content from Rotten Tomatoes to the movie rental subsite bringing in an additional layer of Web 2.0 goodness and the social tools already in YouTube will take movie viewing to a new level of social interaction. Is this a Netflix killer? Probably not. Netflix is very entrenched and offers a huge variety of movies and TV series, both streaming and on disk.
However, it has the potential to be a very worthy Netflix competitor. The only problem I see with YouTube Movies is price. While there are many free movies available, many more are $2,99 or $3.99 and aren't available in HD (the videos are high quality, but if I had my 'druthers, I'd be watching HD video on BluRay or streamed from vudu or Netflix. I can watch thousands of movies and TV shows for free on Netflix as part of my membership; 5 movies on YouTube would pay for my Netflix membership.
Similarly, as Redbox grows in popularity and ubiquity, When I can rent 3 BluRay new releases or four DVD new releases for the price of 1 streaming movie on YouTube, all the social hooks aren't going to make up for the price.
Then again, Apple and Amazon are doing pretty well for themselves with their own comparably priced movie options. I see movie prices having to come down some, though, if YouTube wants to be Google's answer to Netflix (or even to really take on iTunes movies).