BBC’s Doctor Who on… BitTorrent

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BBC’s Doctor Who on… BitTorrent

BBC Worldwide today (April 2nd, 2015) released a Doctor Who box set via BitTorrent, in a part-free, part-paid Bundle. The fact that BBC Worldwide is confident enough of BitTorrent should reassure a lot of businesses who had been put off by coverage about piracy. Businesses should take another look and think about using BitTorrent to automate and simplify content syndication and to gain subscribers, followers and even paying customers.

BitTorrent is a file-download protocol. It’s simply a container for data that enables the BitTorrent user to find and download content. It’s a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) client, so the torrent file itself doesn’t contain any media content, it simply points to where the content is on a “peer” (on the Internet, a local network, or a WiFi-connected device). Once that content has been downloaded, it will appear as a media file with familiar extensions e.g. AVI, MKV, MP3, MP4.

Users need to first download the BitTorrent client. But that’s easy — especially if you incentivize them with great content they can’t get anywhere else (they can download content using BitTorrent without having to sign up for a service or give out personal information at all). Once they’re downloaded it, they can access your content.

Advantages of BitTorrent/Peer-to-Peer

  • Up to 16 x faster than cloud services. Users share files between computers on a P2P basis (distributed), instead of downloading from one server owned and operated by a company (centralized)
  • Significantly less expensive than cloud services. Files are exchanged between users, not via a central server, so server costs for file hosting and serving are lower
  • No IT/Web overhead. BitTorrent provides the client, the users shares files over their own computers and devices. It doesn’t need to touch your own server
  • Reach (and sell to) your target audience directly. Sell direct to your audiences without involving a third-party like Apple, Amazon or Google, enabling you to pass savings onto your customers (if you charge).

The BBC’s move follows on from other signs that BitTorrent’s “re-hab” is working… there are now hundreds of millions of legal downloads via BitTorrent. In September 2014, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke released “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes”, the first paid-for album distributed via BitTorrent Bundles, which uses a paygate that costs $6 to unlock the whole album. And BitTorrent’s own first original TV series, Children of the Machine, will debutin the Fall of 2015. It’s supported by advertising, but users can pay for a non-ad version.

You’d be surprised who else uses BitTorrent…

  • Pixies, De La Soul, Moby, Azealia Banks, Public Enemy, Alice in Chains, Diplo and Atari Teenage Riot, to distribute music
  • The Act of Killing, Dear Mr Watterson, Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure, Madonna’s Secretprojectrevolution, to distribute movies, video and documentaries
  • The UK government, to distribute details about how UK citizens’ tax money is spent
  • Florida State University, to distribute large scientific data sets to researchers
  • The University of Massachusetts, to enable scientists to share papers and scientific data sets
  • Facebook, to distribute updates to its servers
  • Twitter, to distribute updates to its servers
  • The Internet Archive, to distrubute millions of existing and all new files.

It won’t be long before the first corporation uses it to distribute public-relations type material or sponsored multimedia — imagine combining BitTorrent with RSS


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