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We knew that video rentals were coming to YouTube at some point. Back in September, we reported that YouTube was chatting with movie studios about renting films. Now it seems they’re going to dabble in renting some independent films before they move on to big studio fair. On their blog today, YouTube announced that they will be making five Sundance 2009 and 2010 films films available for rent from this Friday until Sunday, January 31.

The films include the much-praised doc The Cove, One Too Many Mornings, Homewrecker, Children of Invention, and Bass Ackwards. YouTube also mentioned that rental videos from industries like health and education, as well as more independent films, will be made available in the coming weeks.

In addition to giving independent filmmakers a widely used platform for their films, YouTube is also offering them full control over how they distribute their work:

Making content available for rent will give our partners unprecedented control over the distribution of their work — they can decide the price of their videos and the rental duration; they can decide when and where their content is available; and they can keep 100% of their rights.

It’ll be interesting to see just how well these films do on YouTube come this weekend. They’re not instantly going to do iTunes numbers, and they likely won’t even get anywhere near what Microsoft sells in rentals via the Xbox 360 — but it’s still a worthwhile first step. They likely won’t be able to compete much until it’s easy to get YouTube to your TV.

They’re already working on a large interface for the site with YouTube XL, so those lucky few with home home theater PCs are already set. Many high-end televisions, some Blu-ray players, and a few other streaming content boxes already include YouTube access — but it’s still nowhere near as ubiquitous as Netflix streaming. If Youtube is able to perfect an interface suitable for use from your couch and help spread it to device manufacturers, they’ll definitely end up being another rental force to be reckoned with.

Discuss: Would you be interested in renting any of these films from Youtube? Do you have a super geeky way of getting Youtube content to your home theater? (I use TVersity and PlayOn)

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