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BitTorrent plays nice with content

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BitTorrent is trying to get over its bad rep with the content industry by leveraging the vast audience of its downloaders for good instead of evil.

Speaking at MipTV’s Connected Creativity forum BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker said “our big challenge is that our technology gets used for things that don’t make us many friends in certain parts of the world, ISPs and media to be specific.”

But the technology company has been working with external agencies like JumpWire, which mines BitTorrent for data, that can be used for content metrics and analysis.

Klinker said that while BitTorrent users are notoriously concerned about privacy, and BitTorrent itself is constrained in how much data it can collect (due to copyright laws), hoped that BitTorrent could build a better relationship with the content and ISP industries and build new features that could help content owners target specific groups of users in the near future.

In particular, BitTorrent is skewed towards males aged 18 to 34, he noted.

Over the last 18 months, the company has been working with content producers on ways to leverage the BitTorrent audience for content “discoverability’, distribution and monetisation.

Last year the first ‘BitTorrent-exclusive’ show debuted, Pioneer One. The programme ran for three episodes and is making revenue through sponsorship slots and donations from fans. The show has reaped 2 million downloads, US$55,000 in audience donations and $30,000 in sponsorship from Verisign. Distribution partner, VODO, which took 25% of revenue while the show’s creators took 75%.

“Content on the Internet is valuable, yes, but not particularly scarce,” added Klinker. He said the series caught a fanbase, and those fans have then contributed and supported future episodes.

A new project launching in May, The Tunnel, will be another community-funded content project which Paramount Pictures has picked up for a direct-to-DVD release on the same day.

BitTorrent is also working with Facebook but has yet to reveal details. One area that they may work on together could be the shift from downloads to streaming. “There’s no question that streaming is a user experience that people want: YouTube proved it, and YouTube proved that a streaming piracy site is what people want, but fortunately Google took it over just in time,” said Klinker.

He added that BitTorrent has been doing some work on a live streaming concept with no need for centralized servers. “You can livestream to millions of people at low cost and zero latency”, Klinker said, adding that public betas of the technology were already live.

“We hope to have the mobile version ready for our tenth anniversary in September,” Klinker said.

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