Google is talking about offering first-run TV shows on YouTube for a fee, similar to the Amazon or iTunes model. For $1.99, you could view the latest episode of your favorite show, the day after it aired on network television.
The catch? It’s a streaming video. Unlike iTunes or Amazon, you have to watch it as a streaming video. The video won’t reside on your hard drive.
Sources say the site’s negotiations with the networks and studios that own the shows are preliminary. But both sides seem optimistic, since models for such deals already exist. No comment from YouTube.
The biggest stumbling block may be consumers. That’s because Google (GOOG) is talking about streaming the shows instead of letting consumers download them to their computers, as both Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) do. But the networks and studios, which control pricing, will want to sell the streamed shows at the same price as downloads; they fear that offering them at a different price will force them to go back and rework their existing deals.
Executives at YouTube and TV insist that the disparity is simply a perception problem and cite studies showing that most people who download TV episodes only watch them once, anyway. But that’s a tough sell.
Now, the reason I will occasionally buy shows from iTunes is that I then have the freedom to watch them on my phone, my iPod, my TV, or my laptop. I can watch the show on an airplane because it’s local to my device. Personally, I hate the idea of paying $1.99 for streaming content. So until they figure things out, I’ll definitely stick to free Hulu for the television that I miss and downloading episodes from iTunes for television on the go.