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Summary:

Consumers still aren’t warming up to YouTube’s video rentals, even with the site offering critically acclaimed movies like Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Reservoir Dogs and 3:10 to Yuma as paid streams. YouTube added titles from Indie powerhouse Lionsgate to its rental offering […]

precious

Consumers still aren’t warming up to YouTube’s video rentals, even with the site offering critically acclaimed movies like Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Reservoir Dogs and 3:10 to Yuma as paid streams. YouTube added titles from Indie powerhouse Lionsgate to its rental offering last week, but consumers have yet to bite: Precious, which received two Oscars at the 2010 Academy Awards, has just seen 1421 rentals in one week.

YouTube opened up a dedicated store front last week at Youtube.com/store (note: only accessible in the U.S.). The site also recently stopped displaying the play count of rental titles on its site. However, we were able to obtain numbers for many of its rental titles, and they explains why YouTube would be secretive about these details: 3:10 to Yuma, as one example, was only streamed 53 times in one week.

YouTube started to experiment with movie rentals in January when it offered a few Sundance titles for $3.99 each. Its users weren’t impressed by the offering, which allows them to stream a movie for 24 to 48 hours, with each title only seeing around 300 rentals over the course of their online opening weekend. YouTube told the New York Times back then that these were actually pretty good numbers for largely unknown independent films.

However, it doesn’t seem like having more popular fare is making any difference. Horror Blockbuster Saw has only seen 40 rentals on YouTube, and Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs has only been viewed 101 times, despite being offered for a discount price of $1.99. Here’s a list of the ten most popular movies of YouTube’s rental store, with yesterday’s play count:

  • Precious – 1421 views
  • The Cove – 1344 views
  • Running Down A Dream – 817 views
  • Bass Ackwards – 536 views
  • Brothers – 514 views
  • One Too Many Mornings – 394 views
  • The Socalled Movie – 357 views
  • Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired – 289 views
  • The September Issue – 287 views
  • Air Guitar Nation – 235 views

Altogether, these movies have just seen about 6200 rentals in a week’s time.

YouTube’s other rental store categories haven’t exactly been cash cows either. Anime shows generally have only gotten a few dozen views per episode max, and educational fare seems to do even worse. There’s one genre that seems to do fairly well: Bikini Destinations, a travel show featuring women in swimwear, has seen a few hundred rentals per episode.

YouTube’s Communications Manager Anna Richardson didn’t want to comment on those numbers, but tried to put a positive spin on the overall performance of the store. “It’s going really well so far,” she said, adding that this is just the early beta of YouTube’s rental program and that there hasn’t been any proactive outreach to potential customers yet.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: Slow and Steady, Netflix Pulls Ahead in Streaming Video (subscription required)

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  1. Perhaps I could rent a movie or two if YouTube didn’t permanently disable my account. I’m not going to have two Google logins in order to rent stuff from a site that has no viable method to dispute arbitrary actions.

  2. Video Marketing » AFL ‘tribesman’ clip pulled from YouTube – NEWS.com.au Saturday, May 1, 2010

    [...] YouTube Store Still Tanks, Despite Oscar Fare – Newteevee.comYouTube opened up a dedicated store front last week at Youtube.com/store (note: only accessible in the US). The site also recently stopped displaying the play count of rental titles on its site. However, we were able to obtain numbers for many of its [...]

  3. Colin Scroggins Saturday, May 1, 2010

    The issue here is not Youtube, but the video selection and price. I was not knocking down doors to see Precious before Youtube rental, and I certainly am not now. Put Sherlock Holmes in the mix at $2.99 and advertise it on the home page, and I bet you have a completely different story.

  4. You must not be familiar with how things perform on iTunes on a rental basis. In that context, these numbers are actually promising – especially when you consider The lack of marketing and weak selection. In fact, I would wager that when this is inevitably ported to android devices, consumption will be far greater than this, especially when the studios come on board.

    I find it hilarious that this is considered a “failure” when no context is given. Sure, against home video and cable VOD these numbers are weak, but they’re already better than Amazon, Vudu, Playstation and aren’t that far off from iTunes based on my personal, first-hand knowledge of how like titles have performed on those platforms.

    ALL digital sales combined are only 1/20th of the home entertainment market – essentially, it’s the equivalent of 2002-03 on the music side.

  5. I agree with Colin but I will add that until YouTube gets rid of Flash I will not watch a movie that keeps buffering every 2 minutes, I have a fast PC and ISP but it still buffers.

    Another problem is I can rent these movies on Amazon VOD, CinemaNow or Vudu and watch them on my HDTV.

    YouTube should stick with free videos.

  6. One other thing – YouTube should make the rental store work with the iPad – it would be nice to instantly start watching rentals instead of waiting for them to download.

  7. YouTube Store Still Tanks, Despite Oscar Fare (Janko Roettgers/NewTeeVee) « My Blog Saturday, May 1, 2010

    [...] Roettgers / NewTeeVee: YouTube Store Still Tanks, Despite Oscar Fare  —  Consumers still aren’t warming up to YouTube’s video rentals, even [...]

  8. Hmmm, why do you believe that those are small numbers? Can you please publish comparison numbers for iTunes and Amazon and Blockbuster?

    I think we are accustomed to seeing YouTube videos with viewcounts in the millions, but that’s for free ad supported clips. For full-length films behind a pay gate, on a site where users are not yet used to paying, these might be very respectable numbers. And if you do the math (x 52 weeks, x tens of thousands of movies, plus shows, plus long tail), it adds up fast.

  9. Janko Roettgers Saturday, May 1, 2010

    Screenguy, easelman, I don’t have direct comparison numbers from Amazon or iTunes. Apple did sell close to half a million downloads in two months after bringing movies to iTunes, but it’s hard to directly compare those two.

    However, that’s beside the point. I didn’t didn’t say that YouTube’s download store is doing worse than its competition, it’s just not doing well, period – and that may have a lot to do with consumers not seeing the value of four dollar VOD rentals in the age of $10 Netflix subscriptions one dollar Redbox kiosks, free streaming on Hulu and free torrent sites everywhere.

    Screendigest recently estimated that iTunes and all of its competitors only made $291 million from VOD and download to own in 2009, and that’s for movies and TV shows together. So, yes, the YouTube folks don’t have to feel that bad about selling around 1400 streams for Precious – but it doesn’t look like they’re onto something that could possibly turn the fate of Internet VOD around either.

  10. First off, consumers do see the value of four dollar rentals – the vast majority of them happen on cable vod. Netflix, Hulu, etc. Compete on a time basis, but not from a content standpoint. If you want to rent Sherlock Holmes, you can get it on vod or the major download sites. I work in digital distribution, and based on what we see so far from google, I’m pleasantly surprised. These numbers are larger than what I see on Amazon, and they’ve had their offering available for years. If I have a library of films up on google at this level of turns, i wll see hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue annually. This number will continue to grow as google adds studio content, does some ce integration, and launches an android movie/tv store.

    Keep in mind – that iTunes number you noted included all content downloaded, including heavily discounted and free downloads. Google could catch up easily since Apple has no real living room strategy – if you want to talk failure, let’s not forgot that little”hobby.”

    Internet vod will be turned around when there is a critical mass of media consumption devices with Internet connectivity. People aren’t watching movies on phones, but they will on connected tvs, bd players, and tablets. Google is better positioned to dominate those platforms with android (open and free -no upfront cost to ce manufacturers). That’s where these movies are going to be consumed, not in a browser.

    Their goal was to prove to distributors that adding YouTube to their growing list of outlets could be an automated process at no additional delivery costs – and the site is already generating revenue in beta with zero marketing. This is a success in my book, and I am planning on delivering many, many more titles in the coming weeks to them.

    1. Nice shill for the Goog. It’s clear you work there.

      “Google is better positioned to dominate those platforms”
      Better than who? The web?
      “That iTunes number you noted included all content downloaded, including heavily discounted and free downloads.”

      Right, and it was only $291M. Goog isn’t turning that around, no matter how free android is.

      “Their goal was to prove to distributors that adding YouTube to their growing list of outlets could be an automated process at no additional delivery costs”
      …and paydirt. You do work for GOOG.

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