YouTube is best known for its user-uploaded free videos of Matt dancing around the world or talking dogs. However, YouTube also now streams movies and has added 3,000 film titles, including new releases, to its movie rental service, making YouTube a viable video on demand option. This new infusion of movies rent for $3.99 for a 24-hour period. So far, it is only available on web browsers and Google TV.
YouTube Movie Rentals Are Only Available on Google TV, Web Browsers and Android
Currently, you can rent YouTube movies on your computer, on Android devices that use Android Honeycomb, most Android phones, or on Google TV. Movie rentals cannot be accessed by other YouTube apps.
Google TV has been shackled by film studios and TV networks that have blocked their content from Google TV's web browser. By using Google-owned YouTube, the Google TV can finally stream a variety of films on its Chrome web browser. The only other movie-streaming service that I've found to work on Google TV's Chrome is Zediva's DVD streaming, but Zediva's membership is limited. On the other hand, YouTube has rentals of new-release films for anyone with a Google account, including those who use gmail.
Paid Movie Rentals Offer Many Extras but Standard Definition Video
Like other video-on-demand services, YouTube's paid movie-rental service now includes current hits — Inception, The King’s Speech, Little Fockers, The Green Hornet and Despicable Me. Cult classic films — Caddyshack, Goodfellas, Scarface and Taxi Driver — are also available. But none of these films are available in high definition.
While YouTube offers high-definition user-uploaded videos, the YouTube movies are only available in 360 or 480 resolution — resolutions best suited for small screens and standard-definition TVs. This may be because the YouTube movie rentals are only available only on web browser and Android phones.
Nonetheless, even without high definition, the experience of watching YouTube on a TV using Google TV was good. The picture quality was clear and bright on the big screen and there were no visible artifacts.
YouTube offers a full movie experience — similar to what you find on a DVD — that includes bonus extras. Some of these extras on the movie page include behind-the-scenes videos, cast interviews, as well as unique parodies, clips and other uploads from YouTube users.
In case you are uncertain if you want to rent the film, each film page includes a Rotten Tomato review as well as recommendations for similar film titles.
How to Rent YouTube Movies or Get a Refund for Movies that Won't Play
To rent a movie, click on the "movie" link in YouTube's navigation bar. Choose new releases, movie genres, or browse through free movies. Once you find a movie to rent, click on the title or cover art. This brings up a detail page that includes the Rotten Tomatoes reviews. Click on the blue "24-hour pass" button to rent the movie.
Create or login to your YouTube or Google Gmail account. You may need to enter a credit card and billing information if this is your first Google purchase. Once complete, you can watch the video right away or wait until up to 30 days later to start playback. Remember that you have to watch the film within 24 hours from the time you first press "play." You can watch it as many times as you like.
I tested two paid movie rentals and watched one free movie. The first movie I tested was "The Green Hornet." I watched it on my Google TV's Chrome web browser. Twenty minutes into the film, it jumped to the end of the movie and stopped. I positioned the film slider just past the point where it jumped. It played again for 10 minutes and again jumped to the end. The same thing happened on my computer. Not being able to watch the movie, I wanted a refund. The process was easy and efficient.
To get a refund, go to your YouTube "Account" tab. Click on the "Purchases" tab. Now click on the "Report a Problem" link. Once you have indicated the problem you had, click on the option that you want a refund. In my case, the money was refunded within 10 minutes.
I went on to rent "The Dilemma" and to watch the free "Super Size Me" without further problems.
Unless you have a Google TV, it is unlikely that you will watch YouTube movie rentals on your big screen TV. But if you do have a Google TV, the new service is a welcome option — along with Netflix and Amazon on Demand.
Overall, YouTube movie rentals are easy to use, particularly if you are accustomed to watching videos on YouTube. While the picture quality is satisfactory, other services that offer high-definition videos — Vudu, Amazon on Demand, Netflix — outperform YouTube and offer most of the same films. The related videos list is fun and easier to access from the movie page; but you don't need to rent the movie to access the list.
It seems that YouTube movie rentals represent another case of a movie-streaming service that does not want to be left out of the video-rental revenue stream. Once YouTube movie rentals become part of the YouTube application on other devices, we can revisit whether the service is worth a try.