YouTube Movie Rentals: Google, You Can Do Better

If Google wants to be a major player in the burgeoning movie-streaming market, why is advancing in such namby-pamby fashion? The company announced Monday that its YouTube video service would add some 3,000 new movie rental titles for users in the United States. So if you're dying to watch classics such as Epoch or Thirst for $2.99 each, now's your chance.

Update 5/09, 2011- 4:30 P.M. PDT: Actually, it turns out I just arrived too early. Newer movies and an improved user interface are being rolled out today, so if you're still seeing the old UI below, be sure to check back soon."

Google contacted me about this a few minutes ago. Sorry for the error.

YouTube's rental service appears to be part of Google's master plan to transform its video-streaming site from an amusing diversion to a major entertainment destination. But if Google plans to turn YouTube into a profit-generating entertainment powerhouse--a fierce competitor to Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, and Amazon--it sure is taking its sweet time.

There's no doubting YouTube's popularity. The service is available on 350 million devices and gets more than 2 billion views a days, Google says. But people don't stick around very long--and the vast majority of users aren't paying to watch.

"But you're spending just 15 minutes a day on YouTube, and spending five hours a day watching TV. As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, we think that's going to change," writes YouTube boss Salar Kamangar on The Official YouTube Blog.

What are Google's long-term intentions for YouTube? With the recent launch of YouTube Live, which features live events like last month's Royal Wedding, it would seem Google is positioning YouTube to compete with broadcast and cable TV too.

The next step? Perhaps Google will launch a video-streaming subscription service that competes directly with Netflix. Or maybe it'll just buy Netflix instead.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com .

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