Google Inc.'s YouTube dramatically expanded its movie rental service with the addition of 3,000 titles from major Hollywood studios, positioning the dominant online video service to capitalize on the growing number of Internet-connected televisions and portable devices.
YouTube head Salar Kamangar notified the site’s estimated 105 million U.S. users via a blog post Monday that they would be able to watch “full-length blockbuster films,” read reviews and catch behind-the-scenes videos on the site. Three studios — Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures — as well as independents, including Lionsgate Films, will offer their movies on YouTube the same day they are available on other on-demand services. Prices for new releases start at $3.99.
Among the newly released titles available for rent on YouTube are Columbia Pictures’ masked vigilante movie “The Green Hornet,” Warner Bros.’ Academy Award-nominated fantasy sci-fi film “Inception” and last year’s best picture Oscar winner “The King’s Speech.” Older movies, such as “Caddyshack,” “Goodfellas” and “Taxi Driver,” are priced at $2.99 and up.
“Six years ago, there were just two types of video: video you watched on your TV and video you watched on your laptop,” Kamangar wrote on YouTube’s blog. “Today, there’s increasingly just video, and it’s available everywhere: on a phone, a tablet, a laptop or a television screen.”
YouTube, which has been propelled by the popularity of user-created short videos, has been adding more professionally produced content, including music videos, live concerts and sporting events. The service augmented its offerings with more long-form content as users showed a willingness to watch Internet-delivered programming, including TV shows and movies, on phones and tablet computers.
The site began making movies from the Sundance Film Festival available for online rental early last year and offers a limited selection of titles to rent, including the Weinstein Co.'s 2006 release “Scary Movie 4" and Lionsgate’s 2007 slasher film “Saw IV.”
Augmenting YouTube’s video library with more Hollywood movies helps position YouTube for the day when the distinctions between online video and other forms of video — say, television programming — disappear, Kamangar wrote.
Some 27 million Internet-connected TVs were shipped worldwide last year, and the number is expected to grow to 49.2 million by the end of 2011, according to researcher ISuppli Corp.
Not all Hollywood studios have joined YouTube’s expanded rental offering. Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios were reluctant to sign on because of concerns that Google had not done enough to combat online piracy, according to people familiar with the matter.
Times staff writer Ben Fritz contributed to this report.