Google I/O doesn’t start until tomorrow (I’ll be there!), but the Google Family PR machine is already in full force today. YouTube Head Salar Kamangar announced the expansion of the video portal’s movie rental service this morning via a post on the official YouTube Blog. YouTube will be adding roughly 3,000 new movie titles for rent, including oldies-but-goodies and relatively new releases. Pricing will be in line with “industry standard(s),” according to a second post from two YT managers.
Kamangar also used his post to hype YouTube Next, the company’s recently announced plan to spur partner content development via funding advancements, grants for equipment, and various online and in-person networking and promotional initiatives. The announcement of YouTube Next was originally made in tandem with the news that YouTube had acquired Next New Networks, a then four year old online video platform.
The news comes on the eve of parent company Google’s yearly developers’ conference, during which we’re expecting to hear more on the future of Google TV. GTV wasn’t exactly a resounding success when it launched late last year, and developers are eagerly awaiting the rumored “Ice Cream (Sandwich)” Android OS update, which is said to offer a more unified framework for developing and deploying applications across Android-powered smartphones, tablets, and Google TV boxes. One of my biggest criticisms of Google TV was that it didn’t really offer me much beyond a Web browser on my TV set, especially once content providers started blocking the Logitech and Sony-made boxes from accessing online programming. A robust development environment spanning across mobile and set-top environments could do a lot to spur the sort of innovation a fledgling platform needs to gain mindshare and, eventually, marketshare.
Hand-in-hand with more useful apps is the reality that content is still King, and with Netflix, Apple, Hulu and now cable industry giants like HBO and Netflix all getting into streaming programming to various devices, Google needs to start building out a catalog of “mainstream” video offerings to complement YouTube’s traditional home-grown and “Web format” content. Movie rentals via YouTube is a logical place to start, as the distribution and payment infrastructure is already in place via YouTube/Google, and it also throws the Google TV platform a bone by setting up a ready made premium rental store that had better be baked into all future units.
Meantime, you can watch Ghostbusters for free and rent Vin Diesel’s 1997 classic “Strays” for $2.99 right now to watch on your computer. Has anyone out there actually seen “Strays”? Here’s hoping YouTube uploads those 3,000 new movies right quick, eh?