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YouTube Gets More Serious About Movies Overseas, Partners With U.K. Streaming Company

YouTube is serious about its experiment in streaming full-length movies, despite some previous failings in this area: It’s just launched a page jammed with 400 movie titles. And they’re free (in the U.K.)

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YouTube is serious about its experiment in streaming full-length movies, despite some previous failings in this area: It’s just launched a page jammed with over 400 movie titles. And they’re free.

If you live in the U.K., that is.

There the page at youtube.com/movies is newly expanded, thanks to a partnership with BlinkBox
(the U.K.’s “leading video-on-demand movie and TV website”). The partnership boosts the offerings by about 165 titles, bringing the total to over 400 movies that U.K.
citizens can now access, a London-based YouTube spokesperson tells Fast Company. the BlinkBox titles live alongside content from Lionsgate, MGM, Sony
and others YouTube has struck deals with. Titles will include “cult classics” and Bollywood movies along with what Google calls “hidden gems.”

What this all actually represents
then is an expansion of the Movies service overseas, with an emphasis
on free content–probably a good sign, given the normally highly tricky
issues associated with negotiating licensing rights for video content
in different markets.

You’re not going to be getting hot, top-of-the-line titles that hit the box office bigtime, nor will you get fresh DVD releases–the industry is only just waking up to the notion of Net-connected movie or TV streaming systems. And since the titles are being shown for zero cost, Google must not have paid very much to acquire the rights to show them–it must certainly be planning to recoup this by showing ads in and around the movie content, but the cash from this endeavor will hardly roll in in huge chunks [check out the update below for info from Google about this point].

In fact what this is is yet another experiment for YouTube, to get its name established in the online movie market–the company hopes the new segment will “grow in time.” And its actually a progression from Google’s precious efforts. These started with some TV shows, and then a section that allowed users to rent movies from some of the same studios as this new free channel is offering. 

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Clearly, YouTube’s is still feeling its way through monetizing movie rentals. There’s been plenty of speculation as to whether renting movies will ever work on YouTube, and its one-off Sundance movies rental effort failed to catch on in any way with renters reluctant to fork over cash. Even with giants such as Apple having difficulty kicking the online movies game into high gear, and Hulu taking a long time to achieve the kind of reach it recently has, it’s not clear when YouTube will take the next step and re-launch its big-title movie rental effort.

Update: Google’s been in touch, noting that the new service is U.K.-only. Plus it didn’t actually acquire any “broadcasting” rights from its movie partners. Instead its partners upload the content, and Google has a deal with them to share the advertising revenues–with Google taking a “minority”. Ads come at the beginning of the movie, and at several points throughout. By itself this is very interesting, and is almost a replica of the model that traditional terrestrial TV stations use when broadcasting movies. 

To keep up with this news follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise.

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