BitTorrent is making a bid to become a legitimate media company.
Right now, the company is best known for its BitTorrent peer-to-peer distribution protocol, which powers illicit file-sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay.
But the software company announced on Wednesday that it will begin distributing original TV series, called “BitTorrent Originals,” this year. The first series will be “Children of the Machine,” an eight-episode young-adult science fiction tale produced by Rapid Eye Studios.
“Children of the Machine,” and subsequent Rapid Eye videos, will be released through BitTorrent Bundle, a pay-walled distribution system with about 170 million users worldwide. Bundle was introduced in 2013, and has since been used to distribute releases such as Thom Yorke’s solo album “Today’s Modern Boxes,” along with other music, videos, and books. Bundle customers use the distributed BitTorrent protocol, in which each person simultaneously downloads and uploads pieces of content, sharing them with one another – but they’re paying a few dollars to do so, rather than simply pirating content.
For one to two months, “Children of the Machine” will be available only on BitTorrent Bundle. After that, it will appear in more conventional outlets, such as cable TV and streaming video services. Those who want to watch the show will be able to download it for free with advertisements embedded, or pay $9.95 for all eight episodes without commercials.
BitTorrent sees its partnership with Rapid Eye as an important first step toward becoming a content-creation company, much as Netflix and HBO have done.
“This is our next step forward toward becoming what is very much a media company in many senses,” Matt Mason, BitTorrent's chief content officer, told the Los Angeles Times.
BitTorrent and Rapid Eye have been working on “Children of the Machine” since at least last summer, when the series was first announced. Shooting on the series begins in the spring. Rapid Eye’s original plan was to finance the production by asking BitTorrent users to pay $9.95 upfront in exchange for being able to download the series when it was completed, but enough advertisers were interested in the project that it’s being made without users’ support. Rapid Eye says “Children of the Machine” will be out by the end of 2015.
“Expanding into the world of original content is a move that makes us a serious player in the media business,” BitTorrent chief executive officer Eric Klinker said in a statement. “[It] takes us another step closer toward our goal: creating a sustainable digital future for creators of all kinds.”