Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube Rents Movies You’ve Heard Of. Did You Know YouTube Rents Movies?

Last month, YouTube quietly expanded its movie rental program to include titles you’ve actually heard of before — from “Precious” to “Saw”. But perhaps they’ve been too quiet about it: Movie fans seem to be unaware they can rent flicks from Google’s video unit. Or maybe they’re just uninterested.

YouTube’s rental store now includes movies from Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF), which has a pretty significant catalog. That’s a big step up from YouTube’s first move, which featured Sundance indies you’ve never heard of before.

But the new movies don’t seem to be flying off the digital shelves, at least according to numbers procured by NewTeeVee: The ten most popular films in the store generated 6,200 rentals in the first week.

“Precious”, which took home a couple of Oscars this year and is getting some marketing push from YouTube on the site, was the best performer — and generated a total of 1,421 rentals. “3:10 to Yuma”, which is a pretty good modern day Western that’s well worth your time IMHO, generated 53 views.

I’ve asked YouTube to comment on the numbers, but don’t assume¬† I’ll hear much from them. And as NewTeeVee’s readers note, it’s hard to put those results in context unless you compare performance for the same titles at online venues like Amazon (AMZN) and Apple’s iTunes (AAPL).

So who knows? Perhaps those are decent results, particularly since Google’s marketing of the movies seems limited to some in-site ads.

But I will say that my attempt to try out the store underscored one big hurdle Google¬† (GOOG) will have to deal with if its video store is going to work: Unlike Amazon and Apple, Google doesn’t have my billing information.

At one point a few years ago, it seemed inevitable that Google would end up with my credit card numbers, and yours too. But Google’s Checkout program doesn’t seem to have taken the world by storm, and their most recent move into e-commerce — the Nexus One — doesn’t seem to be moving quickly either.

So until Google gives us a compelling reason to buy anything from them, it may not matter how good that catalog is.