TV, YouTube and iTunes: Change in the Wind

Would you buy a show on iTunes that you could stream at any time to YouTube? The way that most people answer that question could be crucial to the fortunes of both Apple and Google in the coming months. Google is apparently following up on its plan to offer streamed movie releases for rent with another to do essentially the same thing for current television shows.

As Ryan at NewTeeVee reports, Google is in the process of convincing the TV industry to allow it to stream the kind of new, copyright-protected content that now gets pulled down for a reasonable fee, say multiple sources close to the issue.

Streaming vs. Downloading

The idea would be to do what iTunes already does, which is offer commercial-free first-run TV shows to users for the price of around $1.99 per episode, on or around the first day of their airing. The difference, of course, would be that unlike Amazon and Apple’s download-and-watch services, YouTube would be sticking to its existing streaming video formula, so users couldn’t keep the files on their computers for later viewing. There’s no official word on whether or not users would be able to go back and stream shows after the initial viewing, but I doubt TV content providers would agree to such terms.

YouTube execs think that isn’t necessarily a game-ender, but they acknowledge that it is a problem:

Executives at YouTube and TV insist that the disparity is simply a perception problem and cite studies showing that most people who download TV episodes only watch them once, anyway. But that’s a tough sell.

I know I’d rather have something I can store and potentially rewatch, even if I never actually do. A lifetime subscription arrangement might make me more comfortable, but the opportunities for misuse on the consumer side are too great for the television industry to take that risk.

YouTube Mobile Support

The key factor in whether or not YouTube’s TV efforts will be successful, though, lies not with the way it delivers the content, but the places it delivers said content to. YouTube is accessible on any number of platforms and devices, including computers, Blu-Ray players, video game consoles, televisions, and cell phones.

If mobile content usage trends are any indication, the last delivery route will be the most significant going forward. If YouTube TV rentals extend to YouTube’s mobile apps on Android and iPhone devices, I foresee users more than willing to accept the trade-off of not having any downloaded content in exchange for quick and easy instant accessibility anywhere they have a data connection.

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