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Rumor: YouTube’s launch of online movie rental service imminent

Google’s YouTube is on the verge of launching a video-on-demand service, according to a report on the the entertainment website The Wrap. The report goes on to suggest that the service could be rolled out as early as this week, possibly next.

The Wrap says that Hollywood heavyweights such as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures (though notably not yet Paramount or Fox) have all done a deal with YouTube regarding the new service, together with a number of independent studios. A video-on-demand service would enable YouTube’s vast user base to rent movies as soon as the DVD hit the stores. Pricing and other details are not mentioned in The Wrap’s report.

The introduction of such a service would be the result of the largest video-on-demand deal since the major film studios climbed into bed with Apple in January 2008, giving the green light to its rental service for movies and TV shows. If the deal is for real, YouTube will become iTunes’ direct competitor, which should spice things up a bit in the VOD market.

An update to The Wrap’s article refers to a statement from YouTube issued since the original report was posted. According to The Wrap, YouTube’s statement highlights the fact that the streaming giant already rents movies through its service. An unnamed spokesperson said, “We’ve steadily been adding more and more titles since launching movies for rent on YouTube over a year ago, and now have thousands of titles available. Outside of that, we don’t comment on rumor or speculation.” That existing service, however, would be radically overhauled if these new rumors turn out to be true.

An unnamed studio executive said in The Wrap’s report that Hollywood studios were pleased about Google getting involved with such a streaming venture, as it has the tech know-how to push new ways of encouraging sell-through purchases of movies.

It appears to have been a busy time down at YouTube’s headquarters lately, what with its recent introduction of a live video feature, reports of introducing categorized channels, and talk of enlisting celebrities to help boost revenue. The good thing is, we’ll only have to wait a matter of days (or hours?) to see if this latest report is simply a rumor, or a significant announcement that would take YouTube another step closer to quality content rather than that of people playing pop songs on their teeth with a pen.

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