By MAY WONG AP Technology Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Google Inc. is upping the ante in the online video gold rush, allowing content owners to set their own prices in a bid to create a more flexible alternative to Apple Computer Inc.'s pioneering iTunes store.
Google's planned video expansion, announced Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show, already has lined up commitments to sell thousands of downloads, including recent television broadcasts of popular CBS shows and professional basketball games, as well as vintage episodes from series that went off the air decades ago. A launch date for the expansion has not been released.
"It's the biggest marketplace of content that was previously offline and is now brought online," said Jennifer Feikin, director of Google Video.
Since Apple began selling video downloads for its iconic iPod in October, a flurry of companies have joined forces to distribute TV programming or other video content. The company says it currently offers more than 3,000 music videos and 300 television shows for sale.
Google's flexible pricing model sets its service apart.
Apple dictates all the pricing in its iTunes store, charging $1.99 for each video download and 99 cents for each song downloaded. The restrictions already have caused considerable consternation in the music recording industry and eventually could trigger a backlash on the video side.
With Google's marketplace, content suppliers can name their own price, from zero on up. The content owners who charge for video downloads must share 30 percent of the revenue with Google.
The video providers have the option of offering content on a download-to-own or download-to-rent basis.