Starting this weekend, YouTube will be dipping its toe into the waters of paid content.
This behavior follows a trend we've noted in traditional media outlets. First, media mogul Rupert Murdoch said no more freebies for search engines, then the New York Times hinted (and today confirmed) that users would have to start paying for a certain amount of access to articles. Now, YouTube is partnering with the Sundance Film Festival and filmmakers to charge users around $5 to view a range of movies from the 2009 and 2010 festivals. It's still cheaper than a movie ticket - but is this a direction users will follow?
Five Sundance films have been selected for this venture. It's what we'd consider a test run to see how users will respond to paid content on the site, and whether this could be a new revenue stream for the web video giant, which has historically struggled with profitability.
The films include The Cove, an underwater adventure about dolphin capturing in Japan; Bass Ackwards, which chronicles an improvised road trip; Children of Invention, about two Bostonian orphans; One Too Many Mornings, a "coming of age comedy about two guys who are too old to be coming of age"; and Homewrecker, a comedy about a locksmith. The filmmakers will determine the exact asking price for viewing each movie, but all will be in the range of $5.
YouTube execs told USA Today the move is helping independent filmmakers find distribution avenues for their films. The movies will be shown without ads, which would be an aesthetic disaster for any director who chose to put his creation online.
What do you think: Would you pay $5 to watch an indie flick on YouTube? What other revenue models should YouTube be considering? Let us know in the comments.
For more on paid content, including movies, see today's Open Thread: There's No Such Thing As Free Content.