Warner Bros. to Sell Content Via BitTorrent

Warner Bros. announced yesterday that it will sell movies and TV shows online, and distribute them using BitTorrent. In the same vein as my editorial Pirates are customers too, Warner Bros. realises “If we can convert, 5, 10 or 15 percent of the illegal downloaders into consumers of our product, that is significant.”

A New York Times article states “…in the week ended May 2, an average of 47,069 people were in the process of downloading the movie ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ using BitTorrent”. This likely means that hundreds of thousands of users will download that single movie. Assume similar numbers to other WB content, like “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, and WB is addressing millions of potential customers.

Warner Bros. will make 200 titles available beginning Summer 2006, becoming “first major studio to provide legal video content via the BitTorrent publishing platform” (see press release). To prevent unlicensed use, viewers will need to enter a password before opening a file, and the file will somehow be keyed to the user’s computer. Further details on the underlying mechanisms are not yet available, and it is not clear whether BitTorrent will provide this service.

Some express concern with ease-of-use and restrictiveness – I agree that restriction to a single computer is a hassle, but I suspect that the interface will be navigable to the neophyte.

If successful, WB’s move could lend credibility to BitTorrent, whose protocol has a reputation for distributing content illegally. While iTunes has attracted the likes of ABC and Disney, BitTorrent predominantly features free content. Since each BitTorrent downloader also uploads chunks of each file, BitTorrent likely has less infrastructure overhead than iTunes. Apple could be looking at a real competitor in the arenas of movies and television.

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One Response to “Warner Bros. to Sell Content Via BitTorrent”

  1. JonnyRo says:

    I think the ease of use is going to make this completely undesireable for the regular bittorrent user. It will however make a decent backend for a studio designed user interface which hides the bittorrent methods from the user.

    One side effect of their doing this may be the increase of average user upload speeds. I am personally suffering with a 40kbps upload speed aside my really fast 735KBps download speeds on my Brighthouse Networks (Roadrunner) cable modem. I like the download speed just fine, but having crappy upload speeds is a nightmare.

    Maybe if the broadband operators see the upload pipes regularly saturated they will deal with these problems.

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