Already late to a game dominated by Apple and Netflix, YouTube may finally be ready to get into the video-on-demand market.
Google's video-sharing site is lining up deals with major Hollywood studios and could launch an online movie rental service that would feature premium titles as early as next week, according to a report by entertainment Web site The Wrap. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Brothers, and Universal have licensed their movies for the new service, according to the report, which cited an unidentified senior executive at a studio that has already signed on.
Pricing details were not revealed, and a YouTube representative declined to comment specifically on the report.
"We've steadily been adding more and more titles since launching movies for rent on YouTube over a year ago and now have thousands of titles available," a YouTube spokesperson said. "Outside of that, we don't comment on rumor, or speculation."
YouTube, which already offers indie movie rentals for $2.99, has long been rumored to be in negotiations with major Hollywood studios to stream movies from their catalogs on a pay-per-view basis. If this report proves accurate, YouTube is not expected to be an immediate threat to Netflix, which announced skyrocketing growth in profits and subscribers. The Web's top video-rental service announced earlier today that its net quarterly profits had nearly doubled from last year and it had added 3.3 million subscribers in the first quarter.
A premium movie rental service has been expected since Google removed video content purchases from its (now-defunct) Google Video service at the end of 2007. Google first hinted at its intentions in April 2009 when it announced plans to build payment mechanisms into its video-sharing site. In 2009, reports surfaced that YouTube was in talks with a number of film studios in an attempt to warm them up to the idea of renting out their films on the service.
YouTube first delved into rentals in January 2010 with a test in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival, making five films temporarily available for rental. YouTube had said that other films and programs would be made available for rental in the near future but did not name any partners at the time.