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Google's permanent video sales less-than-permanent

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So much for buying and renting videos from Google. On Wednesday, August 15, the world's most popular search engine waves goodbye to the DTO/DTR (download-to-own/download-to-rent) feature on Google Video, the video site that's played a barely-audible second fiddle ever since Google acquired the nothing-but-free-clips YouTube late last year.

The Mountain View outfit announced the news with an email to Google Video customers on Friday afternoon, and one of the recepients was a certain El Reg insider. He will remain unnamed, as he may not want the world to know he actually paid for online videos, but here's what the note said:

As a valued Google user, we're contacting you with some important information about the videos you've purchased or rented from Google Video. In an effort to improve all Google services, we will no longer offer the ability to buy or rent videos for download from Google Video, ending the DTO/DTR (download-to-own/rent) program. This change will be effective August 15, 2007.

To fully account for the video purchases you made before July 18, 2007, we are providing you with a Google Checkout bonus for $2.00. Your bonus expires in 60 days, and you can use it at the stores listed here: http://www.google.com/checkout/signupwelcome.html. The minimum purchase amount must be equal to or greater than your bonus amount, before shipping and tax.

After August 15, 2007, you will no longer be able to view your purchased or rented videos.

If you have further questions or requests, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

The Google Video Team

When contacted, Google acknowledged that its buy-rent service was indeed shutting down, saying that it prefers to generate revenue on its video sites via advertising - something that's served it quite well in the search market.

"Both Google and YouTube are exploring a wide variety of ways to monetize online video content - from pilot testing AdSense for video syndication to trying various ad formats on YouTube - and the early results have been very encouraging," said spokesperson Gabriel Stricker. "Reaffirming our commitment to building out our ad-supported monetization models for video, we have decided to remove the DTO/DTR (download-to-own/download-to-rent) feature on Google Video."

Google Video has been selling and renting videos, including classic television shows, primetime TV, news, sports, and music clips, since January of last year. For a few dollars, customers could watch a video for a day, and for a few dollars more, they could watch it for the rest of eternity - or at least until Google put an end to its buy-rent service.

These for-pay videos can't be viewed without a specialized Google player, and that goes away on Wednesday. To appease people who were silly enough to purchase videos outright, the company is providing credits via Google Checkout. It looks like our El Reg hack has $2 to spend.

Considering that Google prefers to make money through advertising, not actually selling stuff, you can't really use these credits to buy anything of interest from the site itself (unless you're into tchotchkes bearing Google logos). And since eBay refuses to acknowledge Google Checkout, you can't use them there either. But you can get free stuff from third-party retailers, like Starbucks.

So, the news of the day: One free but terribly-bitter drip coffee for The Register.

Bootnote

What effect will these video refunds have on Google's bottom line? Very little. "The amount of the refunds is not material," Strickler told us. You can bet that a relatively small number of people have actually used the buy-rent feature. Otherwise, they wouldn't have shut the thing down. ®

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