Google has taken a significant step in its ongoing effort to make its YouTube destination competitive with Netflix, Hulu and the like by doubling the number of feature films it streams to 6,000.
YouTube has been renting and showing films for free with ads for more than a year now. Such titles as Supersize Me, Ghostbusters, The Freshman and The Patriot were about as good as they got, though on Monday, 3,000 new titles announced included recent hits The King’s Speech, Inception, Little Fockers, The Green Hornet and Despicable Me.
None of those titles appeared in a search by midday Monday at YouTube.com/movies, though, because the new content, available only in the U.S., is being rolled out over several weeks.
YouTube said Monday that its new studio partners include Universal, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros., while it already had relationships with Lionsgate, Starz, the Weinstein Co., Magnolia Pictures and others.
Rentals at YouTube start at $2.99 for library titles and $3.99 for new releases. Renters have 30 days to watch their chosen film but only 24 hours to finish once they have begun streaming.
YouTube was boasting Monday that its titles include “movie extras” like cast interviews, alternate endings “and other highly produced content from talented YouTube partners.”
Salar Kamangar, head of YouTube, said in a blog post Monday that 2 billion videos are watched daily at YouTube but users typically only spend 15 minutes a day at the site — as opposed to five hours in front of a TV.
“As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, we think that’s going to change,” he wrote.