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Google Launches Paid Video Download Service

Moving ever closer to portaldom, Google has gotten into the content distribution business.

President Larry Page announced the Google Video Store on Friday at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.

The Video Store combines video search with Google-made digital rights management (DRM) and the long-rumored Google Payments system.

The Google Video Store lets users search for video stored on Google's servers, then download it using a new Google Video Player. If the content provider has specified a fee, Google will collect it and take a 30 percent cut. Google began accepting video uploads in April 2005.

Peter Chane, a Google senior product manager, said the store represents a significant enhancement to Google Video, released in June 2005. "We had two main goals," he told internetnews.com, "connecting users with video content that's not on the Internet and trying to help content providers bring their content onto the Internet."

The Google Video Store will provide a new revenue stream for the search goliath, while offering video creators at least the possibility of collecting some money. For example, the store launch features two independent films, "Aardvark'd" and "Waterborne."

"These films struggled to find distribution and audience," Chane said.

But Dan Rayburn, executive vice president of streamingmedia.com, an industry news site, doubted that many people would buy indie content, even for $0.99. "Nobody is going to pay a dollar to watch it," he said. "They need to make deals with major companies."

Chane said the store, opening around 4 PM PST on Friday, would have over 5000 titles from more than 40 content providers for sale. Offerings include over 300 TV episodes from CBS, including "Survivor" and "CSI," archives of "The Charlie Rose Show," and broadcasts by the National Basketball Association. People will be able to purchase video of full games 24 hours after they finish, as well as famous games.

The store will include music videos from Sony, but no music. Chane wouldn't comment on plans to also sell music.

Although Google recently announced a strategic partnership with AOL that included favored placement of AOL content throughout Google search, the Google Video Store does not include AOL content.

"We will bring more and more video content online," Chane said. "Many content providers were reluctant to bring their content online without monetization and copy protection."

Google has added its own DRM software to the store, which is optional for content owners to use. The DRM only works with the Google Video Player, which only works on Microsoft Windows; Chane said Google is committed to delivering versions of the video player for Linux and Macintosh.

To pay for downloads, consumers will need a Google account, to which they associate a credit card. Chane said the Video Store will use the same payment processing platform that Google uses for its self-serve keyword advertising program, AdSense, and for Google Answers, which lets people pay others to find the answers to questions.

Chane declined to comment on whether credit-card-enabled Google accounts might later be used to purchase other things. Google is rumored to be planning to let people not only post items for sale to its Google Base, but also to buy them from others in an eBay-like manner.

Chane said video search results will be ranked based on relevancy, while users will also have ways to browse through the offerings. "There will be no ads on the search results pages or the videos themselves," he said. "We're monetizing this through purchases."