BitTorrent, the pirate bay of the world, could just be the direct-to-consumer money tree the streaming business needs. With over 300 million users worldwide, creators, musicians, and publishers are turning to BitTorrent to window release and monetize their work. Various artists and video publishers have been testing BitTorrent as a place to release and reach target audiences.
Early in our Digital Cabana series, BitTorrent was one of our companies to watch because of their scaled audience and distribution potential. And this week, we caught up with Straith Schreder, BitTorrent’s VP of Creative Initiatives to get more detail on what BitTorrent’s been up to.
Here are 5 reasons why BitTorrent is in a position to become a major streaming player (and a couple hurdles it faces).
- Global reach to a massive audience — BitTorrent has over 300 million users worldwide, over 3x Netflix’s 83 million global users, and is accessible and active in over 170 countries. Netflix, by comparison, is in 130 countries. Producers interested in fanbases world wide can capitalize on this one-stop-shop for reaching that global audience. The potential for instant access globally was a defining factor for YouTube in the early days and has been a selling point for various other streaming businesses since.
- Data ownership — The value of the 1:1 relationship has been a point of interest for creators since YouTube first caught flack for not sharing subscriber contact info with the channels they subscribed to. Because BitTorrent is open source, and aims to empower the creator to build direct connections with audience, their dashboard supports transparency on data and analytics as well as a mechanism for email capture.
- Culture of desire — Many might argue that the pirate bay built on BitTorrent’s technology makes it an unsafe playground for rights holders, but the reality is that BitTorrent has captured a user-based built on the culture of desire. Users can, legally or illegally, obtain any piece of content they want, find a way to flip them into paying subscribers and rights holders won’t care if the mechanism for coming into the funnel is with an intent for pirating or
- Format or File agnostic — if its a creative work, you can distribute it on BitTorrent — Music, film, virtual reality, books, a course, even a PDF. This is important to streaming because video and music publishers can net new audiences who may not even be in search of video-based entertainment.
- Variety of monetization ops — Earlier this year, BitTorrent opened up pre-roll ads based on a rev share model similar to YouTube or other open-source platforms. They also support transactional or free distribution. In cases where email capture is currency of choice, BitTorrent, as noted above, allows the publisher to grab emails or other info from users. “One of the things we’re accutely aware of is there’s no longer one way to monetize content on the web,” Schreder says. “There’s a different business model effectively for every project you’re wokring on. You can take advantage of the value exchange that makes sense to you and makes sense to your fans.”
If BitTorrent is to become the go-to for video and music IP holders as a primary first window (or even secondary window) for distribution, then it will have to sharpen up two sides of its business:
- Discovery — a consistent problem in the video and music streaming spacea and one VideoInk cites quite often. It’s a competitive edge that could help companies like Spotify break through and because BitTorrent is its own internet, the company could become a hub for surfacing the best and most relevant entertainment to its users, based on viewing behavior and data.
- Acquisitions of distribution rights — If it looks like a distributor and talks like a distributor, it should walk the walk of a distributor. At present, the tech company isn’t creating incentives for creatives to distribute works first on BitTorrent beyond the offer to own the relationship with the audience — a value prop that companies like Vimeo VHX and Zype have also bannered. And despite a recent program where BitTorrent has funded projects with grants between $10,000 and $100,000, Schreder tells VideoInk that there aren’t any plans to become a regular commissioner for projects. “Creativity isn’t benefitted by exclusivity. We see ourselves as part of this ecosystem.”
- Perception of piracy and loss — BitTorrent has to overcome its deep association with piracy and explotation of IP. But according to Schreder, this is a reality that might stand the test of time and change: “The open source technology has unfortunately been exploited. The pirate bay was built on top of the open source technology. Exploitation happens everywhere. Everything we do is legitimate.” This may not be enough for major movie studios and networks that are precious about the value of their IP.