BitTorrent teams with studio for original online video in quest to legitimise image

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Peer-to-peer file sharing star BitTorrent on Wednesday announced a studio partnership to make original online video, ramping up a challenge to Netflix and Amazon Prime and trying to further legitimise its image.

The exclusive alliance with Rapid Eye Studios will "identify, produce, and distribute original video" aimed at young adults, according to the company.

BitTorrent Originals will debut content to be shown exclusively on the platform for one to three months.

BitTorrent chief executive Eric Klinker touted the alliance as a "major milestone for us and an aggressive expansion into the media space."

The company was founded in 2004 and specialises in software of the same name designed to efficiently share digital files using networks of computers in a peer-to-peer model.

The technology early on became known as a piracy tool that let people easily share copyrighted films, music and television shows.

BitTorrent boasts 170 million users in what it described as a young, creative, and influential group of 14-to-25 year-olds.

"Others in the original content space such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu have made great progress," said BitTorrent chief content officer Matt Mason.

"But, we are starting out with a big advantage: We have a larger audience than all of those platforms combined."

BitTorrent last year enlisted Rapid Eye on their first collaboration, a series titled Children Of The Machine.

The first season of the show is slated to launch late this year with ad-supported episodes of 60 minutes each available for viewing free.

A premium version of the series without ads and promising added content will be priced at US$$9.95 (S$13.54).

Ninety percent of the revenue from BitTorrent Originals will go to content creators, who get to decide whether to charge viewers for shows or stream them free with advertising added, according to the company.

BitTorrent users have streamed or downloaded hundreds of millions of "Bundles" of digital content from sources including Sony Pictures Classics and Universal studios as well as musicians including Madonna and Linkin Park, according to Mason.

As part of the partnership, Mason and some of his team from BitTorrent's headquarters in San Francisco will relocate to Los Angeles to work with Rapid Eye there.

"This move helps BitTorrent establish a beachhead in Hollywood, in terms of the deal and by establishing an office there," Mason said.

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