YouTube launches free movies for UK, ties in Blinkbox startup

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UK startup Blinkbox is to get a shot in the arm after securing a partnership with YouTube’s new UK movies service. YouTube has created a new Movies section of the site, allowing UK viewers watch over 400 films for free, by striking deals with US film studios including Sony Pictures, as well as Blickbox.

The content is past mainstream hits and cult classics. The move follows the launch of a Movies section for its US audience in April last year and YouTube is already running catch-up TV programmes made available by Channel 4 and Five at www.youtube.com/shows.

Blinkbox is making 165 films available as part of the new Movies section. Since it normally charges £1.99 to rent movies and TV shows, in this instance it will get revenue from ads surrounding the films with pre-rolls and mid-rolls ads, and of course get exposure to YouTube’s audience. The site was founded by Michael Comish and Adrian Letts with investment from Eden Ventures, Nordic Venture Partners and others.

Michael Comish, the CEO of Blinkbox, said: “This exciting tie up allows us to reach film fans and potential users outside of our usual audience and helping us build on our (already) rapidly growing customer base.”

Donagh O’Malley, YouTube’s Head of Video Partnerships, said: “This is a first step, and we hope film lovers enjoy the wide range of titles our partners have made available.”

Since the “cult classics” of the offering include indie and Bollywood movies, this is long tail content which is not going to worry Blockbuster any time soon.

But presumably YouTube thinks that this will act as a placeholder and stake in the ground before it assaults the world of the TV screen itself, perhaps with Google TV.

Blinkbox recently became the the first optimised legal movie streaming service for Playstation 3 owners in the UK and is aiming to become a kind of UK based Netflix, with an archive of 6,000 movie and TV titles.

However, it faces touch competition from Lovefilm which already has streaming available. That said, blinkbox says it is booking over 1 million unique monthly UK visitors accessing its movie streaming site by laptop or home PC already.

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