(By Apurva Chaudhary & Vikas SN)

Update: It looks like Google has also rolled out rentals on its video sharing site YouTube.

When we checked, we noticed that one can head over to the YouTube movies section to browse through both paid and free movies across various genres and languages. However, we noticed that the paid catalogue is quite similar to what Google Play is offering through its movie section, indicating that Google is probably offering the same catalogue across both the services.

Interestingly, it also looks like Google is syncing movies rentals and purchases between YouTube and Google Play i.e. movies rented or purchased on Google Play can be watched on YouTube and vice versa. However at the time of writing this article, this feature seems to be limited to YouTube website and is not available on YouTube mobile apps yet.

We believe this can help Google increase the consumption of its movie service and possibly give the company an edge over its competitors like Apple which is also offering movies for rent or download through its iTunes store. However for this to happen, Google needs to seriously work on improving its movie catalog, which is quite weak as of now.

Earlier: After adding an e-book section and a device section to its content marketplace Google Play in India, Google seems to have now added a new Movies section, allowing users in India to purchase and rent movies in SD and HD format.

Content: Google has added quite a few Hollywood movies in the movie section. However, the store still lacks a significant amount of Bollywood or Indian content to make a difference. It currently offers movies in action & adventure, animation, comedy, drama, and family genres. Google also offers free and premium full length movies on its YouTube channel in India – which contains a lot more Indian content. We hope Google eventually rolls out its premium content from YouTube to the Play Store.

Availability: When we checked, we could browse movies on a Micromax A90S handset. However we were able to purchase or rent movies on the Nexus 4, as well as the Play Store on the web.

Pricing: Movies are available in Indian pricing and users can buy these movies through a Google Wallet account, similar to how users currently purchase paid Android apps on Google Play. Sadly, however, Google Wallet currently supports only credit cards as a payment option. The pricing for renting and purchasing differs based on movies. We noticed that renting a Standard Definition movie costs anywhere between Rs 80 and Rs 120, HD movies between Rs 120 and Rs 150, while buying SD movies costs between Rs 190 to Rs 499, and HD movies cost between Rs 490 to Rs 590. We also noticed that couple of movies are not available for renting.

Movies on Google Play

Once a user rents a movie, they have to watch the movie within 30 days from purchase and can continue to watch up to 48 hours. Once the rental period expires, the movie disappears from the user’s library.

The other question is – would people download an entire movie on a data connection, or for that matter, a mobile handset?

Why now?

Google seems to be testing waters in India. Just two days ago, it added the device section to its Play Store in India and made the Nexus 7 tablet available for purchase. Google has typically shied away from launching its Nexus devices in India, which we believe is due to the fact that devices sold in an unsubsidized manner in India. When Google sells its Nexus devices for cheap in the US, it expects to make money from their after sales service through apps, music, ebooks, among others.

Now that Google has started selling the Nexus 7 tablet in India, it makes sense for them to launch other services as well to monetize the device. They probably want to check how the hardware and software perform in India for future Nexus launches. However, for Google Play Movies to perform better, it needs to add more local content to its catalog.

Competition

In December 2012, Apple had finally extended iTunes Store to India adding the ability to purchase and rent movies. HD Movies are priced between Rs 290 to Rs 490 per download or Rs 120 for Rental, while SD Movies are priced at Rs 190 for download and Rs 80 for Rental.

Eros International’s Eros Now offers online streaming service for $4.99/month which has been reduced to $2.99/month possibly as an introductory offer, although we assume the movie catalog will be limited to only Eros’s entire film catalog. Verismo’s Mela also offers a similar VoD service, through its iPad and Roku apps for a monthly subscription of $4.99.  Rajshri Media, the Internet and Mobile arm of Bollywood production house Rajshri Films, offers their movies on YouTube for free supported by YouTube ads. Spuul.com, the streaming service that offers Indian movies and TV shows online, had tied up with Yash Raj Films (YRF) to make the studio’s movies available on the website.

DTH (Satellite Tv/Direct to Home) operators also offer full day movie rentals, and companies like Tata Sky are already offering Internet VoD (video on demand) enabled PVRs. Apart from that, we also have VoD sites such as Boxtv.com* and Bigflix that allows users to play premium movies on demand on a monthly subscription basis.

Corrigendum: An earlier version of this post incorrectly mentioned that users can’t purchase or rent movies on mobile devices. The error is regretted. We’ve updated the post accordingly.

*Disclosure: Times Internet, which owns Boxtv.com, is an advertiser with MediaNama.