By : Erik Gruenwedel | Posted: 21 Jan 2010
YouTube is taking audiences to Sundance.
Google Inc.’s social video site YouTube will offer online movie rentals of five independent films screening at the Sundance Film Festival, which is running through Jan. 31.
The titles, which are from the 2009 festival and this year’s as well, include The Cove, One Too Many Mornings, Homewrecker, Children of Invention and Bass Ackwards, and will be available as standard definition and high definition downloads for $3.99 each for a 48-hour viewing window.
The titles will viewable only on a computer as the beta program builds out functionality allowing access to mobile devices and Internet-connected devices and televisions.
YouTube said it would invite other independent partners to partake in the nascent service, which it said offers an alternative option (including pricing ranging from 99 cents to $19.99) in addition to the ad-supported model that YouTube currently uses to offer video streams on its site.
Indeed, YouTube and GoDigital Media Group Jan. 21 said they had signed a deal giving the social network behemoth access to 800 movies and television streams, ad supported.
Offering feature film streams comes as YouTube aims to compete against Hulu’s increasing user base and evolving ad-supported repurposed TV content.
“The move to full-length makes a lot of sense for You Tube, and being that it is such a brand name, made it easy for us to jump on board immediately,” said Logan Mulvey, co-founder and CMO of Santa Monica, Calif.-based GoDigital.
Upcoming GoDigital releases include Nickel Children, starring Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan) and Jeremy Sisto (“Law & Order”), as well as Chasing Ghosts, starring Michael Madsen (Kill Bill) and Oscar nominee Gary Busey (The Firm). For television, GoDigital will distribute multiple seasons of the ESPN series “American Dragster.”
YouTube spokesperson Chris Dale said the company remained in ongoing discussions with the major studios to expand the transactional movie rental service to include major Hollywood movies.
Online reports suggested the social networking behemoth was in talks with Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. A Sony representative declined comment.
“We know that different types of content requires different types of revenue models,” Dale said, adding that a movie such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would not initially fall into a streaming channel.
Google in 2007 offered a short-lived VOD service that was undermined in part to the dearth of consumers willing to consume long form video online, according to Dale.
“It’s a different time now and YouTube is a much larger and has more engaged community than online video had in 2007,” he said.
Dale said the new rental platform would glean increased support from major content providers with pending upgrades such as 1080p resolution, auto translation/captioning and related functions.
The beta service, in the near term, will add fitness, wellness, anime and health-related content as it evolves.
“This is something, that from our perspective, brings more choice to our user community,” he said, adding that the initial rollout gives independent filmmakers a chance to “kick the tires” and take advantage of a new channel. “Then we’ll open it up and invite a broader group of content partners to join.”