The business to get your viewership time is a crowded one, and seemingly getting more crowded every day. Movies and television are the focus, but short-form services have also been gaining popularity. But, while Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Netflix proved that a paid subscription service could produce great original content, the focus of licensed content has been shifting. Services like Crackle, IMDb TV, Pluto, and Tubi have shown that a free and ad-supported model works for licensed content.
Following that model, some of the bigger companies have tried to find where they might fit in the market. Crackle from Sony and IMDb TV from Amazon have done a decent job of testing the waters, but other content holders have been looking into the space as well. NBC's upcoming Peacock service will offer a free tier and, if code found in the most recent version of Google Play Movies is to be believed, Google might be right behind.
Inspection of the latest APK has uncovered a tier of content that would be free and ad-supported. This could be an important move for Google, as the Play Movies service has never been terribly popular. Like the Play Music service, which will soon be shuttered in favor of YouTube Music, Play Movies has never been able to attract a large audience. Users tend to find themselves either in the Apple or Amazon ecosystems for purchasing and renting movies. However, neither of these platforms offer free content (with the exception of Prime Video, which is a different model). By offering free content in Play Movies, Google could entice users to live, at least partially, in the Google ecosystem instead.
The code suggests that this launch will not be a small one, either. The safe move would be to try it out with a dozen or so titles, but Google appears to be planning to launch with hundreds of movies. That is a suggestion that Google is not just testing the waters, but planning a big, full-scale launch. A big launch doesn't guarantee success, though, as the Google Play brand has been a huge failure for the company. Play Music is on its way to the graveyard, and most people don't know that Play Magazine and Play Newsstand even exist. Play Movies could eventually become a YouTube branded spinoff, like YouTube Music, which is replacing Play Music.