English-articles & Fildeling

Thoughts on BitTorrent distribution for a public broadcaster

BitTorrent Download

A while after we did our successful experiment with BitTorrent distribution I was interviewed by the German news web site www.tagesschau.de

Digg this story!

BitTorrent Download

The article is in German, but my original conversation with Mr. Wulf Rohwedder is in english. Because it reveals some of my thoughts about this project I decided to share it here:

– Peer to peer networks have a bit of an ambigious reputation, especially due to the use for pirated footage and othe rillegal content. Has there been any reservations or resistance against the project?

– Less resistance than the project initially feared. But we thought through the issues and planned the responses because we feared that other media would start screaming «the NRK use illegal pirate technology to distribute content». So we made it very clear in the initial blog post announcing the project that BitTorrent is not by any means illegal. It is a very robust and powerful way to distribute content. So robust and powerful that it unfortunately has been the preferred distribution method for pirates.

After the announcement we can conclude that the problem of BitTorrent being the pirate’s preferred distribution method was highly overrated. No real questions about this have been raised. Seems like most journalists understand that the technology is by no means illegal.

– Will you expand the experiment to other productions?
– The experience and reactions after one week are extremely positive. It is likely that we’ll try to clear the rights for this kind of distribution of more content. But first we want to evaluate our current experiment in more detail.

– Do you fear any setbacks for the classical ways of distribution like broadcast and DVD sales?
– At this point our experience with multi platform distribution has been that success on one platform leads to success on other platforms. But BitTorrent distribution is one of our experiments trying to focus on future possibilities. In the long run traditional broadcast and DVD sales of content like this will decline anyway. It is important for us to start experimenting with new distribution methods. We don’t want to do like the music industry. Running around thinking that people will keep driving down to a record store when they can have the content delivered with the push of a button at home.

And if that wasn’t enough. BitTorrent distribution is environmentally friendly. Driving trucks full of DVDs around the country is not.

Lars Monsen

– By offering DRM-free versions of your products in a non proprietary standard you are pretty much giving up control over it – do you fear any misuse?
– If you want control of your content you need to lock it down in a vault and never show it to anyone. We gave up control of our content the day we started broadcasting. For years our most popular content have been available on BitTorrent and on sites like YouTube anyway. DRM doesn’t work. The only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it. If people want it on YouTube then you should publish it on YouTube or in a system that give the same experience. If people want it on BitTorrent then you should provide that. If you do it right people will come to your official publish point and you’ll end up with more control.

In other words, the possibility of misuse has always been there. By publishing our content the way people want it we gain control of the quality and the presentation.

– How do you settle the question of third party rights?
– That is the most difficult part and the main reason for not publishing all our productions like this. Music rights, actors, artists, format owners etc. Fortunately the managers of this particular series was very forward thinking when they started working on it two years ago. They did a very detailed contract with Lars Monsen (the hiker, main character and photographer) and avoided third party sponsors. They had all the music composed and bought completely free.

To solve this in the future we need to be better at negotiating rights when starting new projects. And we need to keep working on renegotiation of our existing content to be able to publish more from our archives.

If you have any additional information about the project we would be interested to get them, too.
– We’re a license funded public broadcaster. We need to reach the broadest possible audience with our content. Because of that we can do experiments like these without having to worry about advertising revenues. And the reactions so far have been extremely positive. Currently there are 321 comments on the blog post announcing the project. All of them positive. Comments like «Now I’m paying my license fee with joy», «Finally a TV channel that gets it!», «Note to BBC: This is how it should be done» and so on.

So far we’re closing in on 90 000 downloads of the torrent files. The peer-to-peer ratio on the downloads have been close to 95%. Yes, meaning that using BitTorrent saves the license fee payers 95% of the distribution cost. And giving them download times of 3-5 minutes on a 30 minute TV show in full quality. People are happily seeding the files.

Seems like the BitTorrent protocol is especially useful for this kind of open, legal and free distribution.

Link to the English article about the project.

The discussion on digg.com.

And the original Norwegian blog post announcing the project.

Note (in Norwegian):
Denne artikkelen er på engelsk fordi intervjuet med det tyske nyhetsnettstedet foregikk på engelsk. Og fordi artikkelen kan ha internasjonal interesse.

40 kommentarer

  1. Det er kjempe bra at dere gjør dette.
    Og foresten det burde ikke være no problem å bruke BitTorrent uten DRM for TV kanaler som er avhengig av reklame (eks. TV2).
    De må bare begynne å ha reklame i programmene som for eksempel at de i programmet bruker Nokia mobiler og drikker Cola.
    Eller bytte ut kanal logoen med en liten reklame i noen sekunder av og til.
    De må bare passe på å ikke overdrive.

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  2. Steinar Bjørlykke

    Synes dette var den beste kommentaren hittill på Ars forumet:

    By the way, Lars Monsen is the local Chuck Norris. Actually, the wolves set up campfires to keep him at a distance. No wonder he is tough enough to be on BitTorrent. He probably distributes BitTorrent, not the other way around.

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  3. Fantastiskt! Jag är otroligt imponerad. Tar väl bara sisådär 10 år till innan de supertröga motsvarigheterna vi har på vår sida gränsen vaknar till, tyvärr.

    Gratulationer till succén!

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  4. Computer Geek

    I have to agree with many of the previous posters, this was indeed a very uplifting article to read.
    Not only has they understood realities about digital distribution etc.. Their attitude also makes me feel like wanting to support such a company economically. The attitudes of many movie and record companies have made me stop buying their products, because it seems like they consider people as criminals until proved otherwise.
    Many thanks again!

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  5. Ypperlig at alternative distribusjonskanaler begynner å bli lagt merke til 🙂

    Håper at dere får muligheten til å distribuere mer «fritt» materiale. Vet ikke om noen bedre måte å distribuere data på, bare synd at det er så lite som er tilgjengelig med velsignelse fra rettighetsinnehaverene.

    Men som en liten sidenotis vil jeg hevde at det antageligvis vil være ekstremt vanskelig å opprettholde den nevnte 95% delingsraten.

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  6. […] Tessa Sproule, the manager in charge of the show’s digital outreach, read a post by Cory Doctorow on the BoingBoing blog that inspired her into action. Through the source Eirikso, Doctorow noted that NRK, Norway’s state broadcaster, had successfully experimented with releasing the popular TV show “Nordkalotten 365″ DRM-free through BitTorrent, saving on bandwidth cost. […]

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  7. […] For en stund siden la vi i NRK ut Lars Monsen “Nordkalotten 365″ som nedlasting i bittorrent. Det ble en kjempesuksess – og i skrivende stund har nærmere 100 000 episoder blitt lastet ned (fordelt på 8 episoder). I forbindelse med all oppmerksomheten rundt dette ble Eirik Solheim intervjuet av Tagesschau. Og hadde blant annet følgende uttalelse: If you want control of your content you need to lock it down in a vault and never show it to anyone. We gave up control of our content the day we started broadcasting. For years our most popular content have been available on BitTorrent and on sites like YouTube anyway. DRM doesn’t work. The only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it. If people want it on YouTube then you should publish it on YouTube or in a system that give the same experience. If people want it on BitTorrent then you should provide that. If you do it right people will come to your official publish point and you’ll end up with more control. […]

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  8. […] Vi pleier å være nøye med å republisere det medlemmene av NRKbeta-redaksjonen uttaler til øvrig presse. Enten det er radioprogrammer, intervju i aviser eller noen tvinger oss opp tidlig. Denne gangen blir det enkelt. En link til Dagens IT. De snakket med undertegnede om hvordan den tradisjonelle mediebransjen nå begynner å komme på banen på dette nymotens internettet. […]

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  9. […] Und neben anderen Versuchen, werden bestimmte Sendungen auch über das Peer-to-Peer-Protokoll Bittorrent verbreitet. Dafür mussten bestimmte rechtliche Vorraussetzungen geschaffen werden, aber die NRKbeta-Macher bezeichnen die Bereitstellung von Inhalten per Bittorrent als einen großen Erfolg. Some weeks ago NRK – Norwegian Broadcasting put up one of the most popular shows in Norway on bittorrent. For free, with no DRM, no country restrictions. It has been a huge success and so far about 100 000 episodes have been downloaded by our readers! After being featured on boingboing and digg, Eirik Solheim of NRK was interviewed by the German website Tagesschau. (Quelle) […]

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  10. […] I en intervju med tyska Tagesschau sa Eirik Solheim följande: If you want control of your content you need to lock it down in a vault and never show it to anyone. We gave up control of our content the day we started broadcasting. For years our most popular content have been available on BitTorrent and on sites like YouTube anyway. DRM doesn’t work. The only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it. If people want it on YouTube then you should publish it on YouTube or in a system that give the same experience. If people want it on BitTorrent then you should provide that. If you do it right people will come to your official publish point and you’ll end up with more control. […]

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  11. why the tagesschau.de article is not available anymore: tagesschau.de/inland/rundfunkaenderungsstaatsvertrag108.html heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Neue-Regeln-fuer-oeffentlich-rechtliche-Online-Angebote-213153.html

    it has simply become «verboten» for the public funded broadcasters to have most of their content removed from the web after a period of one year (except for some cultural or historic important stuff).

    I think this is a very stupid thing as publically funded content is getting produced with much effort and then deleted again…

    Why can’t we also have a nrkbeta here in germany? 🙂

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  12. […] Thoughts on BitTorrent distribution for a public broadcaster: If you want control of your content you need to lock it down in a vault and never show it to anyone. We gave up control of our content the day we started broadcasting. For years our most popular content have been available on BitTorrent and on sites like YouTube anyway. DRM doesn’t work. The only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it. […]

    Svar på denne kommentaren

  13. […] If you want control of your content you need to lock it down in a vault and never show it to anyone. We gave up control of our content the day we started broadcasting. For years our most popular content have been available on BitTorrent and on sites like YouTube anyway. DRM doesn’t work. The only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it. If people want it on YouTube then you should publish it on YouTube or in a system that give the same experience. If people want it on BitTorrent then you should provide that. If you do it right people will come to your official publish point and you’ll end up with more control. (Solheim, 2008) […]

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