BitTorrent Signs Distribution Deals with Multiple Film and TV Companies

--Secures $20 Million in New Funding

BitTorrent, a San Francisco-based provider of peer-to-peer technology that has been widely used for illegal video downloads, continues its efforts to reinvent itself as an entertainment industry-approved provider of video content (note: in the spring, for example, the company announced that it had signed a deal with Warner Bros that would see it offering 200 of the latter's new releases, library titles and TV series; and in the summer, it announced that it had added around 1,600 video titles through deals with Hart Sharp, Egami, Koch and The Orchard--see [itvt] Issues 6.75 Part 2 and 6.84 Part 3): the company announced last week that it has signed agreements with several prominent film and TV companies--20th Century Fox, G4, Kadokawa p*ictures USA, Lionsgate, MTV Networks (including Comedy Central, Logo, MTV: Music Television, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nicktoons Network, SpikeTV, The N, TV Land and VH1), Palm p*ictures, Paramount p*ictures and Starz Media--that will see them offering content on its video "marketplace." Films that will be available on the service as a result of the deals include "X-Men The Last Stand," "Ringu," "Saw III," "13 Tzameti," "Mission: Impossible III," and "Ghost in the Shell"; TV programs that will be available on the service as a result of the deals include G4's "Attack of the Show," 20th Century Fox's "24" and "Prison Break," Palm's "City of Men," MTV's "Laguna Beach" and "Celebrity Deathmatch," Comedy Central's "South Park" and "Chappelle's Show," VH1's "Hogan Knows Best," Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Avatar: The Last Airbender," and Nicktoons' "Skyland."

BitTorrent users will be able to download and view the films and programs covered by the new deals on their PC, laptop or other portable device. While most of the films will be available day-and-date with their DVD release, Palm p*ictures plans to be the first studio to use BitTorrent's platform to release full-length feature films before their theatrical and DVD release dates. Most film titles will be available for purchase on a download-to-own basis, or for rent on a VOD basis; TV content will be available for download-to-own only.

BitTorrent says that it has m*illions of users, and claims that its traffic accounts for as much as 40% of Internet traffic worldwide. Its efforts to legitimize itself include working with the MPAA to remove copyright-infringing content from its search results, in addition to forming distribution partnerships with studios and TV production companies. It plans a full launch of its new, Hollywood-approved distribution service in February, 2007, and says that the service will provide integrated monetization for both paid and ad-supported content. In addition to video content, the new service will offer music and games, BitTorrent says. "BitTorrent has fundamentally changed the Internet architecture by enabling high-speed and high-quality content distribution on the Web," the company's co-founder and president, Ashwin Navin, said in a prepared statement. "Today we have announced the role will play as a hub for consumers to enjoy their favorite entertainment, but we see a future that involves BitTorrent's content delivery platform powering t*housands of Web sites including those of content creators themselves, offering them the profound benefits of our technology."

BitTorrent's efforts to legitimize itself seem to be meeting with the approval of the investment community: late last week, the company revealed that it has closed $20 million in Series B financing. The round was led by new investor, Accel Partners, with participation from initial investor, DCM.

Originally Published: December 5, 2006  in [itvt] Issue 7.08 Part 3

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