Google has big plans for YouTube as it moves further away from webcam videos to professional content. YouTube will start offering full-length streaming movies for rental, putting it in direct competition with the likes of Netflix or Amazon and even Microsoft's Xbox Live. The company is in talks with several big movie studios and plans to launch the program in an internal test.
YouTube has already been offering free, full-length movies within an ad-supported format. However, if the talks with Lionsgate Entertainment, Sony and Warner Brothers come to fruition, the site may begin to offer a much greater selection for rental, though some of it may also be free, but with advertising. If the story, first reported by the WSJ, turns out to be true, the new movies could be available as early as the fourth quarter, though the prolonging negotiations are likely to push the date to early next year.
The program was supposed to start with a three-month test beginning this month, but the date has apparently been pushed back. In an interesting twist, the trial would involve about 10,000 Google employees, roughly half of the Internet giant's workforce. The movies will go for $3.99 per rental, in line with most of the competition, though, at this price, they are most likely to be in standard definition.
YouTube has been long wanting to get more professional content on board and already offers a number of TV shows and even movies. While the site has risen to become the biggest online video host by a fair margin, with 120 million viewers in the US alone in July, advertisers are reluctant to place their ads next to content that they and YouTube don't have much control over. Google has been struggling to turn a profit with YouTube since it first acquired it in 2005 and has only recently managed to put in on a path that should see it making the company actual money in the not-so-distant future.