YouTube Takes a Small Step Into the Film Rental Market

In this NY Times article by Miguel Helft, published on January 20, 2010 during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, online content aggregator Youtube announced a partnership with some of America's most independent of filmmakers. In what might be a major development (heralding a new age in digital distribution?), a few titles premiering at the Sundance festival were also made available for digital rental during Sundance via YouTube

Since only a small fraction of the films submitted to Sundance in the last few years have ever found meaningful theatrical distribution (maybe 1 out of 1,000), any outlet for independent filmmakers that offers a large audience and a chance to immediately build on the Sundance buzz seems like a promising development.

But how will the filmmakers make money on Youtube? And how will the audience find indie films in Youtube's sea of user-generated short-form content? Can serious feature length work survive amidst the silly kittens, odd music videos, and erzatz parodies of pop culture on YouTube? Will customers - used to getting content for free on YouTube - be willing to pay for "rentals?"

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