After a quiet start, YouTube is expanding its roster of downloadable videos — and putting some up for sale in a small test. Viewers have been able to download select videos since mid January, when YouTube previewed the option on Barack Obama’s ChangeDotGov channel (via the Lessig Blog). *Google* Operating System‘s Alex Chitu broke the news about the purchasing option before YouTube blogged its own announcement, and paidContent spoke with Obadiah Greenberg, YouTube’s manager of strategic partnerships, to fill in the details:
— Partners choose whether they want to charge: “Our partners choose the price they want and the kind of license attached to the content,” Greenberg said. Universities like Stanford, Duke and UCLA are letting viewers download the clips for free under Creative Commons licensing; viewers can reuse them in a non-commercial and non-derivative way as long as they give the proper attribution. Currently, there are just 14 partners offering video downloads: eight for free and six that charge. Those selling clips will split the revenue with YouTube — not that it will amounts to much. HouseholdHacker, for example, is charging $0.99 for a clip called “How to mod a USB Flash Drive,” as is pogobat, for “How to Solve a Rubik’s Cube.” More after the jump.
— An addition to ad sales — not in lieu of them: “YouTube remains primarily an ad-supported model,” Greenberg said. “This is an addition, it’s an experiment … we’ll see how it goes.” It’s also picking up where Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Video left off: back in 2007, Google shut down its paid download service after it failed to gain traction. It raises the question of whether Google will pull the plug on Google Video altogether, since the company recently said it would be halting video uploads to the service.
— MP4 format lets viewers take the clips with them: The videos will play on any device that supports MP4 files — iPhones, iPods, Zunes and even mobile phones. Greenberg said it was “too early” to say whether YouTube’s downloadable library would expand to include TV shows and videos — but if the feature gains traction with the site’s massive audience, it could evolve into a viable iTunes alternative.