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Summary:

On Wednesday, the first episode of Pioneer One debuted as a free torrent, and the sci-fi pilot, distributed by the VODO platform and promoted by a conglomerate of P2P services, is proving there may be a market for independently-produced and P2P-distributed content.

pioneerone

Imagine using a P2P file-sharing service to download new episodes of a TV show — a common enough situation, if you look at what people torrent. But this time imagine doing it legally, for a show produced specifically for distribution via torrenting.

This Wednesday, the first episode of Pioneer One debuted as a free and legal download being promoted by what TorrentFreak called “the largest P2P conglomerate ever assembled,” including uTorrent, Limewire, The Pirate Bay and EZTV.

Distributed by VODO, which is powered by BitTorrent, the 35-minute sci-fi pilot revolves around the discovery of an object from space, a lost cosmonaut and the U.S. government’s efforts to contain the situation. The production values are impressive given the low budget, and the scripting, acting and direction are solid. If you enjoyed the slightly talky but eerie Quatermass series, Pioneer One would probably be right up your alley. And to download it, it’s a simple matter of getting the torrent file, using your software of choice to open the torrent, then watching the high-quality .mkv file with any video player (VLC worked great for me).

Pioneer One came about, according to VODO founder Jamie King, after VODO distributed The Lionshare, the previous film by Pioneer One creators Josh Bernhard and Bracey Smith. “I started discussing with Josh his idea for a P2P show,” King said, “And I felt that they deserved our support and that I could get the community behind this. I read the script and it looked good, and I’d been thinking for a while that what was going to succeed in this ‘space’ was a genre series, something low-budget but with tight production values, something that the community could own and criticize and love as it develops. [Pioneer One] fit that bill.”

Using a Kickstarter campaign to solicit the $6,000 budget for the pilot episode (over $7,000 was actually raised), “This production was possible due in no small part to the willingness of talented, professional people working for free,” Bernhard says on the official VODO site. “From actors to composers, they did this because they believed in the project and wanted to see it happen.”

In the episode’s first day and a half online, about 84,000 downloads have occurred, and King says that “The numbers are rising. There’s more and more seeders and leechers joining. I would say we would be delighted to get 250,000 across seven days.”

In addition, King says that since the show’s premiere $1,000 a day has been donated to fund the next six installments. “So I guess they’ll get their budget for the next episodes pretty fast,” King said.

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  1. Scott Jensen Friday, June 18, 2010

    I applaud what they have done. This is what all p2p networks should be supporting. This and other series that run the gambit of the genres. Doing so will counter the piracy image that the record, movie and TV industries have been relentlessly trying to paint p2p networks as. To counter such attacks by producing content that is freely distributed over p2p networks. However…

    The key to success isn’t donation drives or even p2p networks sponsorships, but advertisers. Getting advertisers to pay for ad spots, sponsorships, and product placements. This means developing relationships with them. Finding out what they are willing to support and giving it to them. Networking to other advertisers through them. Building on those relationships so more drama series, reality shows, news programs, sports events, etc. can be produced at a profit and freely distributed over p2p networks. No charity. No profit-eating support from p2p networks. Just giving advertisers great bang for their ad dollars.

    Or, to put it another way, developing a business model that can turn a profit for all involved. If the producers of the show want to read of one such model, click on my name for a 2003 white paper I did.

    I hope the producers of this show will use their show as a prop at sales pitches to major advertisers and ad agencies. This is what we can do. Here are the number of downloads. Here’s the demographics of our downloaders. Demographics that you want to reach. Demographics that we can deliver. Here’s what we think would be an even better show for your advertising goals.

    In other words, I really hope they have a talented marketer in their ranks. They will need it to take this to the next step. I wish them good luck.

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  4. I just saw the pilot and was pleasantly surprised with the decent writing, good production values and generally great acting. Far more professional than the “Sanctuary” series that was later picked up by SciFi

    If they can find some way to make money with this somehow, I think this could be a very successful post network media model.

  5. Joshua Jones Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Just finished the pilot episode, and very impressed. I thought that the Lionshare was a great movie, and I can really see the same writing-style come through in this series. The conversations are very natural, so much more like real conversations than what you would normally find on TV.

    Scott Jensen is absolutely right though. While using a service like Kickstarter to pull together funding through donations may have been necessary to pull together the budget, and may even be necessary for the full first season, what content creators need to be thinking of is a sustainable business model. Advertisers have often been the backbone of many business models, and that may turn out to be plausible in this case as well. I can tell you that if I were a company with a service or product to sell that would appeal to me as I am right now, I would be all over finding out how I could get my brand associated with Pioneer One.

    Even aside from the awesome quality of the show itself, to be attached to the potential beginning of a shift in how P2P is viewed, the kind of brand loyalty that a company could earn through advertising here… It would be a great opportunity, I think.

    At the same time, I would caution that content creators need to keep from thinking too plain on how to solve the business model problem. Simple “let us feed this to you” advertising will likely never be the whole solution. P2P is very much a part of the internet, and the internet is all about sharing and generating conversation. I feel that this needs to be an integral part of whatever business model is ultimately used.

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  9. Interested Viewer Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Why does this need to follow any traditional model when they have already been able to show that it works without using a standard path to achieve a successful end result? Perhaps instead this could serve as a model for creators that are currently producing work under more mainstream methods?

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