Google’s (GOOG) YouTube video site is officially getting into the video download business, including paid downloads. But for now, it’s little (if any) threat to Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes store, which sells movies, TV episodes, and music videos.
In a blog post, YouTube says it’s testing giving video creators the ability to offer their videos for offline download, using a variety of copyright licenses. Barack Obama’s video team first tested this option last month; now YouTube has added videos from Stanford, Duke, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UCTV to its test.
YouTube producers will also be able to sell downloads via Google Checkout, for which Google collects a small kickback. As part of the trial, YouTube producer Dan Brown is selling videos for $0.99.
So far, it’s a DRM-free (mpeg-4) offering, which might turn off big media companies. But Google could potentially add DRM later. Or big media could get over the fact that DRM isn’t preventing piracy. Whatever.
Either way, there’s 100 million people watching YouTube videos in the U.S., including music videos, TV shows, and movies. And many might want to pay a few bucks to download them for later.
And then YouTube could suddenly become a formidable rival to iTunes. Especially if the YouTube videos can play on Apple iPhones, RIM (RIMM) BlackBerry devices, and Google (GOOG) Android-based mobile gadgets.