BitTorrent Courts Brands And Creators With New Ad-Supported Streaming Service

Open“BitTorrent” and “ads” are not two words you expect to see together, but the peer-to-peer file sharing service wants to prove it’s more than just a conduit for pirated content.

On Thursday, BitTorrent rolled out a streaming service for Android, iOS and (soon-to-come) Apple TV apps called BitTorrent Now that’s like a cross between YouTube and iTunes, with a number of different ways to access streamed music and video content.

The service also includes an ad-supported option for mobile apps.

Although BitTorrent is technically best known for its free file transfer protocol, the BitTorrent Now streaming service isn’t coming out of the blue. The P2P company first tested a paygate with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke in 2014 that let artists set their own price for content and take up to 90% of the cut through a rev-share.

Initially dubbed “BitTorrent Bundle,” the platform sought to legitimize its offering for brand advertisers and creators by distributing a subset of an artist’s content at no cost to the consumer while establishing a paywall for deeper access.

The company claims more than 30,000 artists and studios have since signed on, including Red Bull Media, Sony Pictures Classics and Major Lazer.

About 25% of BitTorrent publishers use paygates today, said the company’s VP of creative initiatives Straith Schreder, noting that paid content remains ad-free. 

The ad-supported model, however, provides a 70-30 net split in favor of the publisher, while a new “pay-per transaction” model on direct downloads throws 90% of revenue generated to the creator.

As of now, BitTorrent claims 23 artists and app partners are testing its newly rebranded streaming option. The company also promises to provide its publisher partners with data transparency via a dashboard capturing fan profile information.

Although direct sales are a viable part of the BitTorrent ecosystem, it’s also piloting video and mobile supply-side platform SpotX for the ad-supported component of BitTorrent Now, which gives it access to a marketplace of demand.

2c-bt-now-device-tv“The [way they transact] is entirely up to the publisher,” Schreder said. “They can share projects for free in exchange for an email address, use ads or [do] direct sales. Every single piece of media has a different business model. Here creators have the option to take advantage of multiple different options for monetizing their work.”

BitTorrent Now represents on-demand media, while multichannel live-streamed app, BitTorrent Live, is more focused on live video.

What sets BitTorrent apart, claims Schreder, is the service’s reach with young audiences, as well as a stated commitment to artist agency.

“Creators can choose their business model, and they can use almost any format to tell their story,” she said. “BitTorrent Now is an open platform. Anyone can come in and use it. But we do see ourselves as offering a platform for breaking culture and the Internet’s outside voices.”

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