By Sahil Patel
For a long time known as a massive enabler of piracy, BitTorrent in recent months has attempted to move past that stigma by partnering with various content creators and owners to legally sell their work on its platform. Now, BitTorrent also wants to shop some of its own content.
The company has inked a deal with Rapid Eye Studios to identify, produce, and distribute original video content via its BitTorrent Bundle platform.
All projects commissioned and created under this partnership will be labeled as “BitTorrent Originals,” with BitTorrent retaining a 30 to 60 day first-run window. Following that, the projects can move on to other distribution channels.
BitTorrent says any project it picks up as part of the originals program will receive marketing support “across the entire BitTorrent ecosystem,” which includes a monthly audience of 170 million visitors across the globe. Creators, who will have the option to distribute via the electronic sell-through and/or ad-supported model, will receive a 90% cut of all revenue.
“This landmark deal with Marco [Weber, CEO of Rapid Eye Studios] is a major milestone for us and an aggressive expansion into the media space for BitTorrent, Inc.,” said Eric Klinker, CEO of the company, in a statement. “Expanding into the world of original content is a move that makes us a serious player in the media business, and takes us another step closer toward our goal: creating a sustainable digital future for creators of all kinds.”
For those interested in working with BitTorrent, the company says its criteria for originals include a focus on stories that appeal to a “young, creative, and influential group” of 14- to 25-year-olds that make up its audience.
BitTorrent and Rapid Eye already have a project under development. “Children of the Machine,” which was first announced in 2014, begins shooting the script. Rapid Eye boss Marco Weber (“Igby Goes Down”) and Jeff Stockwell (“The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”) will write and executive produce the sci-fi series, which is scheduled to premiere on BitTorrent in late 2015. The first season of the show will span eight 60-minute episodes, and will be available for free (with ads) or ad-free for $9.95.
Additional projects will be announced in the coming months.
North American rights outside of the BitTorrent window will be shopped by Paradigm, which rep Rapid Eye and Marco Weber.
So will this work? BitTorrent is pretty bullish about the audience that its planning to make content for. “Since our launch in 2013, our users have streamed or downloaded hundreds of millions Bundles from the likes of Sony Pictures Classics, Universal, Cinedigm, FilmBuff, and Drafthouse, in addition to work from musicians such as Thom Yorke, Madonna, Linkin Park, Kaskade, and multiple projects from every one of the major labels,” said BitTorrent’s chief content officer Matt Mason in a statement. “Others in the original content space such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu have made great progress, but we are starting out with a big advantage: We have a larger audience than all of those platforms combined.”
Apparently advertisers are interested, too. BitTorrent says it’s in advanced negotiations with global advertisers for its original content, with deals spanning sponsorships, advertising, and brand and product integrations.
“We have received an unprecedented and positive response from the largest global brands wanting to be a part of the BitTorrent Originals initiative,” said BitTorrent COO Ro Choy in a statement.
“The young and rebellious image of the brand certainly helped,” added Mason.
As part of the exclusive deal between the two companies, Mason and part of his team is relocating to Los Angeles in order to work from Rapid Eye’s offices.