Azureus beat Bram Cohen’s Bittorrent venture to the punch when they soft-launched a Torrent-powered content platform in December. Zudeo.com features film trailers next to semi-professional HD content and has since seen 1 million visitors. All these folks will soon have to learn a new moniker, because Azureus is about to pull a Venice Project on us.
I met with Azureus CEO Gilles BianRosa this week, and he revealed that the platform won’t be called Zudeo anymore once it officially launches with commercial content in March. “It has a really cool name that I can’t reveal right now.” he told me with a smirk. BianRosa did however share some details about pricing, protocol enhancements and the reasons why they don’t want to be another YouTube.
Azureus has been making announcements about new content deals every few weeks now, with the BBC and Starz being some of the bigger names. Altogether they have about 20 deals in place. The company concentrated on TV studios as opposed to Hollywood because of availability and pricing issues. BianRosa told me that he doesn’t want to sell movie downloads that can be bought on DVD for less at Wal-Mart, but concentrate on inexpensive, yet hard to find shows. “We will have Starbucks coffee type pricing for all of our content,” he said.
All of the for-sale content, that is. The rebranded Zudeo.com will still feature lots of free promotional and user-generated content. Azureus wants to give serious bedroom producers an opportunity to distribute longer movies with a better resolution than YouTube-like sites. The platform will offer topical channels to promote and organize content, which is supposed to make it more attractive to commercial content owners and advertisers as well. “Clearly we don’t see ourselves as the next YouTube,” says BianRosa.
BianRosa wants to offer independent producers revenue sharing at some point – a process that he compares more to eBay than to catalogue licensing. Publishers eventually will be able to choose for each work whether they want to distribute it for free, for sale or have it be advertising-supported. DRM will also be optional.
Obviously the mere existence of DRM will outrage many traditional P2P users – some of which have been Azureus’ most loyal base. The client has been downloaded around 140 million times because of its multi-platform, open source approach, and BianRosa wants to keep it that way. The company is working on some progressive streaming enhancements of the BitTorrent protocol that will only be available to Azureus users initially, but he hopes to eventually get other vendors on board for this as well.
Of course all of this might not be enough to appease the most critical voices in the P2P community. BianRosa shrugs this off as something inevitable: “We’ll get bad press on Slashdot because it’s not geek enough, but I’m not too worried about that.”