Indie filmmakers looking to YouTube as a possible new distribution outlet might want to think twice, based on weekend returns from the video site’s new movie rental service. Last week, the online video site teamed up with the Sundance Film Festival to make a small selection of critically acclaimed full-length films available for rent for 48 hours.
But, despite a post on the YouTube blog and pickup from various tech blogs, very few users have actually taken YouTube up on the offer. Based on a quick look through the movies that were made available, it appears that YouTube viewers rented the five films less than 1,500 times in total, or an average of 300 times each. At $3.99 a piece, that means the indie films generated less than $6,000 in total sales over the course of the weekend, or about $1,200 per movie — and that’s before YouTube took its cut for hosting the files.
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That’s bad news for the films involved, and could be bad news for YouTube, which is looking for new ways to monetize videos through sales and rentals. While the films are independently produced and haven’t generated the same amount of buzz as some Hollywood blockbusters, the low view counts are surprising, given the buzz before the film festival and prominent “featured” placement from YouTube.
The good news for YouTube is that it’s still expected to become profitable this year. In a recent research note, Barclay’s Capital analyst Doug Anmuth suggested that YouTube would add to Google’s bottom line for the first time in 2010, with revenues growing more than 55 percent year-over-year to $700 million.