BBC moves to file-sharing sites

December 20, 2006 · Posted in abundance, economics, innovation, Intellectual Property, sharing, strategy 

Hundreds of episodes of BBC programmes will be made available (legally) on a file-sharing network for the first time, the corporation has announced.

The move follows a deal between the commercial arm of the organisation, BBC Worldwide, and technology BitTorrent firm Azureus through their Zudeo service.
Zudeo users will be able to download copies of Red Dwarf

read the full story.

This is really great news. People all over the world have enjoyed BBC programming but its sometimes hard to get it. In the US BBC television is mostly available through public television. And more recently through file sharing. Its great to see the BBC recognize the value of global distribution made possible using BitTorrent.

I’ve been involved with BitTorrent since 1999, my business partner The Shad0w created BitTornado, a BitTorrent client, to enhance the protocol. Many of BitTornado’s enhancements have been accepted as standards to the protocol.

The original reason we got involved in BitTorrent was to create alternative business models to allow artists to get paid for their work. We realized that file sharing was the natural state and trying to stop it was impossible. So how can artists get paid if making copies is free? We tried to help performers get concert gigs and built a web site that allowed you to audition performers online and then book them for performances. We found paying for bandwidth was too expensive at the time; this led Shad0w to work on the BitTorrent open source project and became one of the major contributors to the technology.

I continued working on business models, and discovered there are four basic types of business models for information. The key factors are:

  Paid Before Creation Paid After Creation
Paid By Consumer
  • Concerts
  • Subscription
  • Selling copies (CD/DVD/MP3)
  • Merchandising
Paid By Another Person
  • Advertising
  • Charity
  • Patronage
  • Licensing
  • Royalties

Copyrights focus on paying after creation or publication. By focusing on business models the pay the artist before creation or publication sharing isn’t a problem, and in general is helpful.

Advertising benefits from file sharing. I spent a lot of time promoting integrated advertising also known as branded entertainment. The Apprentice was one of the biggest successes of branded entertainment. I was unable to get the idea to widely catch on. Oddly enough it wasn’t people rejecting the idea, it was because companies didn’t know how to purchase it. The advertising world is based around the idea of empty space. You buy empty space and place your ad in the empty space. Since branded entertainment is the content there isn’t an empty space to fill with a 30 second spot. The big companies didn’t know which department should handle it. And is the case with most innovations, if its disruptive they ignore it.

We have seen an interim solution with such companies as They tack an ad on the end of videos. So far this is missing the important content targeting to make the ad beneficial to the viewer. Viewers HATE commercials. The post roll approach used by Revver is better than others because the ad is at the end so there is no interruption but advertisers don’t want to pay for something that isn’t seen. There isn’t a strong win-win-win feedback loop.

Patronage and charity are very similar but patronage is more interesting. A patron gains benefit from having the work created. And now that copying and sharing is free groups of people can be patrons of an artist and everyone get a copy of the work. A method of doing this is The Street Performer Protocol. I believe this is the next big innovation, its already being used and I’ll discuss it more in future posts. I’m currently working on a service to make patronage easy and reliable. This will allow consumers to directly fund new movies, books, music, and software that can then be released with a Creative Commons license. No ads, total artistic freedom and consumers choose what is made.

After seeing Zudeo and the ability deliver HD content with an easy to use interface it is one of the outlets we will use for distribution.

Action Items

  • Visit Zudeo and try the Azureus client to download high quality video.
  • Visit, read about the project and sign up for the newsletter to stay informed of the progress.