As TheWrap reported exclusively in mid-April, YouTube is launching a movie-rental service that will make about 3,000 titles available to rent online and on mobile devices.
The service has partnered with several major Hollywood studios and is designed to compete with the likes of Netflix and iTunes, and to persuade users who come to YouTube for short-term video content to stick around for feature-length entertainment.
When TheWrap broke the story in mid-April, a Google spokesperson said that the company had been renting films for a year and would not comment on rumors. But a letter posted by YouTube chief Salar Kamangar was headed "Welcome to the future" and cast the initiative as a new service.
"Six years ago, there were also two types of video: video you watched on your TV, and video you watched on your laptop," wrote Kamangar in a letter posted on the site on Monday. "Today there’s increasingly just video, and it’s available everywhere: on a phone, a tablet, a laptop or a television screen, in your office, on your couch, in a cab."
YouTube is now available on 350 million devices – but, Kamangar pointed out, typical users spend just 15 minutes a day on YouTube and five hours a day watching TV. "As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, we think that’s going to change."
The service currently offers 3,000 feature films. Films that appear on the main YouTube movie page include "Super Size Me," "The Squid and the Whale," "Ghostbusters," "The Patriot" and "Bob Le Flambeur." A follow-up post on the YouTube blog said that titles will range from "Caddyshack," "Goodfellas" and "Scarface" to new films like "Inception," "The King's Speech" and "Little Fockers."
Newer releases typically rent for $3.99, while catalog titles are usually $2.99. As YouTube has been doing since 2009, it also offers films that stream for free, with advertisements inserted.
YouTube says that most viewers will have 30 days to begin watching their movie after renting it, and 24 hours to finish once they start. Many of the movie pages will include reviews, behind-the-scenes featurettes, interviews and parodies and remixes from "YouTube's unique community of content creators."
Sony, Warner Bros. and Universal have licensed their content to YouTube, as have many smaller companies. TheWrap reported last month that Paramount, Fox and Disney held out because of concerns about YouTube and parent company Google supporting piracy sites.
Kamangar's letter also says that YouTube is in the process of "bolstering our investment" in original content though YouTube Next.