Last week Devindra told us about a new initiative to democratise the Sundance experience just a little.  In a pioneering move to undercut the elite access of Utah-bound schmoozers and carousers, 2009 and 2010 selections The Cove, One Too Many Mornings, Homewrecker, Children of Invention, and Bass Ackwards were each made available on YouTube for rental.

Of course, getting a YouTube stream to play on your TV is pretty hard, even impossible for many consumers, so it would be foolish to expect similar rental numbers to those generated by iTunes or X-Box 360 rentals when viewing would be mainly monitor-bound. All the same, were the scores even in the same ballpark? Sadly not.

Some hard (and I mean hard) numbers and the despairing words of one analyst coming up after the break.

Here’s the damage. The best performing film was The Cove with a shocking count of just 303 rentals. Check out the full chart for a catalogue of hurt:

  • The Cove – 303 rentals
  • Children of Invention – 301 rentals
  • Bass Ackwards – 299 rentals
  • Homewrecker – 279 rentals
  • One Too Many Mornings – 241 rentals

That means more people read reviews of these films online this weekend – positive reviews too, in most cases – than actually clicked over to YouTube and watched the films themselves.

Here is The Motley Fool’s Rick Munarriz:

Ouch! We’re talking about 1,422 total views, or $5,673.78 for all of the rentals at $3.99 apiece. If Google is giving the filmmakers roughly two-thirds of the take – and I’m going by other digital-media standards, since the site isn’t publicly spelling out the royalty payouts – each of the five productions will walk away with just hundreds of dollars for their role as video-sharing pioneers over the weekend.

Part of the problem may have been how difficult it was to carry out the purchase, which was, to be honest, not too difficult at all; or more likely it was down to incredibly bad promotion of the scheme.

I’m confident that had these films been made available via iTunes the figures would have been unrecognizably different.

Perhaps Google will see the lesson in this and address their YouTube rental system to make it more streamlined, not to mention more well publicised and easy to find and navigate. They’ll need to try something fairly drastic to even stay on the chart of legal movie streaming options, I think, because tomorrow, Apple will unveil their “latest creation” and, I expect, give the iTunes movie rental store yet another nitro boost.

I hope that the Sundance folk aren’t put off by these stats and continue helping to facilitate easier access or smaller, more alternative or less accessible films by the countless viewers worldwide who would enjoy them.

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