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5 reasons BitTorrent Store won’t sell

BitTorrent is all set to launch a legal P2P video download service, BitTorrent Entertainment Network, that will offer television shows for sale and movies for rental from some of the major Hollywood studios. The news has created quite a stir amongst the technorati. Mathew Ingram, a man not known to mince words, is convinced that the new service is destined to fail. It is hard to disagree with his assessment, though our reasons are slightly different that his. Here is a short list of challenges we see for BitTorrent’s new store:

Internet Service Providers dislike BitTorrent

Internet Service Providers can limit download speeds, and can block default BitTorrent ports, and force an inferior experience. There are other ways ISPs can mess with the Torrent traffic. Expect broadband providers to ask for their pound of flesh, I mean dollars from BitTorrent and their content partners.

BitTorrent’s not easy, especially for novices

BitTorrent is still pretty tough to use for mainstream, less sophisticated users, and can leave novices pretty confused. Little things can ruin the experience.

Despite the P2P architecture’s elegance, the ability to download and playback the content right away is the top priority amongst non-geeky content customers. Any delays can turn off the customers for good.

Rememer that BitTorrent is a pay-it-forward kind of system: it downloads parts of a file, and then uploads it to others. Any problems in say your router or your firewall prevents you from getting the credits for uploading the file-slices. As a result your download speed gets crammed down. The slow upload speeds of most U.S. broadband connections could prove to be the bottleneck.

They can overcome most of their problems with their own super peer infrastructure, but that takes away much of the infrastructure cost savings. They have a partnership with CacheLogic that can fix these issues, but it is unclear if that infrastructure is in place.

Content on BitTorrent Store ain’t all that

BitTorrent needs to offer content that is far superior either in quality (HD for example) or in variety for users to switch from the click-and-download ease of the iTunes store, or similar such services.

Beyond that the content is shackled by very limiting digital rights management software. DRM, as Ingram rightfully points out, works against the BTL (BitTorrent Legit). BT team knows that, and said so in The New York Times.

Furthermore, downloads require Windows Media Player and works only on Windows machines and is tied to one single PC for now.

Who uses the official BT client?

BitTorrent’s official client has lost out to alternative clients including Azureus and BitComet.

Why pay to play?

How do you convince people to pay for something they are used to downloading for free by using BitTorrent? This is especially hard since BT also offers a torrent search engine on their site, which also comes up with the illegal stuff. Will they start stripping out the legal content from their search service?

The torrent dilemma!

38 Responses to “5 reasons BitTorrent Store won’t sell”

  1. One of his reasons just isn’t true: “Who uses the official BT client? BitTorrent’s official client has lost out to alternative clients including Azureus and BitComet.”

    I just tested out the service with utorrent and it works fine. So what does it matter that people don’t use the official BT client? And yes, i know utorrent was bought by BitTorrent. I’m sure azureus and bitcomet work fine as well.

  2. The lawyers and corporate types always seem to want to take a disruptive technology, which fosters a large usership simply because of its inherent “disruptiveness”, and insert some subterfuge engineered to create revenue, and try to pass it off to the user community as the same “cool” technology, only better.

    I understand why they do it, but I have yet to see a successful “mashup” that comes anywhere near projected revenue, post suck.

    I agree UTorrent’s client is nice, but if you were looking to launch a “mass market” download service, I’d think you want to shoot for something that looks more like Netflix. If they think they are going to retain the core usership of clients like UTorrent and migrate these folks to a paid model, I think we all know that’s not going to happen….

  3. THE biggest problem for the whole “Torrent” brand is the kind of folks it attracts: geeks not wishing to pay for stuff.

    A total rebranding may be a good start. Until then, say “Torrent” on a college campus and you will either get a confused face or a phrase such as “free movies.”


  4. Om, Bittorrents default plain jane client is set to become defacto used once again thanks to the companies purchase of the uTorrent people. uTorrent is much smaller then any of the clients out there and high performance with low system impact.

  5. John Polinsky

    The bigger issue for me is, what incentive do I have to share my bandwidth. I love bittorrent in that I can use my large up and downstream to help distribute oss tools that I use. I’m certainly not going to pay for that privilege though. If media companies want to sell me their products over bittorrent they will have to be at extremely reduced prices to compensate me for distributing their material.

  6. Having Windows DRM locked content is a highly undesirable in terms of user utility, however, it may be useful for the BitTorrent Entertainment Network at this point in time.


    Having content tethered to your WM Player 11 on your internet connected PC allows you to build and sustain swarms of seeders of legitimate content, thereby providing a way to kick start BTEN’s legitimate content network.

    Whether they can reach a critical mass without ticking off ISPs and users over bandwidth utilization is still open to question. Users are the other actor in the ecosystem that need to be considered. Even if ISPs do not shape their traffic and degrade the experience, users, who do not manage how BT uses their connectivity, will find that their other internet activities will be increasingly unresponsive as their upload bandwidth is being consumed by seeding activities – unless, of course, the BT client manages this for the uninitiated user)

    I agree with Om’s analysis – many issues, a long road for BTEN…

  7. Om PeerImpact uses progresive download and you can play a video file within minutes if not seconds so it is doable with p2p algrothims .

    As for the the bussiness models of most of the p2p companies….. they suck and are dictated by big media .

  8. Why is everyone assuming you would have to seed? Their business model would have to be fast downloads that THEY are providing by seeding the files themselves. That’s where your money would go.

    If they expect YOU to seed, they would have to give some sort of discount per GB you upload to someone else.

  9. You forgot the main reason: DRM. It won’t play on all of my computers, or my media players. It probably won’t play at all in 5 years.

    Besides, when you pay for movies or music, the publishing company wastes/steals most of the money instead of giving it to the cast and crew or musicians. Sending $5 directly to the cast and pirating the movie might be a good alternative…

  10. I think it will fail too. The prices are too high (higher than iTunes or a slower download), bitTorrent isn’t uer-friendly and nobody will bother seeding.I give it half a year.

    And IMO, BitTorrent in general is a great idea, but it’s practical uses have to be limited to small groups, not the entire internet.

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  12. Peer Impact is stugling with the same movie rental model and they give their users a system credit for seeding .Most of the bandwith on Bittorent’s service is going to come from their own seed servers and maybe some peers who are downloading the file .

    With no incentive system in place its going to be hard for Bittoent to convince its paying customers they should seed out of some sense of altruism .

  13. On “Who uses the official BT client?” the answer is no one. But didnit BT just reach an agreement with uTorrent which is one of the best? And there’s a number of BT add-ons for Firefox in the works.

  14. Victor Blake

    I think that P2P (be it Bit Torrent or other) could be better accepted for PAID content if it passed on to consumers the REAL cost savings that the content owners and distribution partners actually get. In other words, if it costs $4.99 for a video rental today and the owner gets $1 and the distributor gets $1 profit, but the $2.99 covers distribution cost, then they ought to P2P distributed it for $1.50. $1 for the owner and $0.50 for the distributor (who is clearly doing less in this case anyhow and who has practically no distribution cost). Something like that …

    I believe that consumers will suffer some inconvenience of technology if they can GAIN some convenience of time (kick off the download Thursday night for a Friday night video) AND SHARE IN THE SAVINGS …

    Future generations of technology will begin to HIDE the technology, thus removing some obstacles.

  15. And not to mention, for bittorrent to work well, it requires many other users willing to donate their bandwidth through a process called ‘seeding’ so you experience quick downloads.

    People paying for content are not likely to seed the files, making it no different from a simple download which can take days to complete for good quality content.