Bittorrent Entertainment Network

28 02 2007

On Monday, Bittorrent inc attempted to go legit. The company launched the “Bittorrent Entertainment Network” a service with a number of movies and TV shows available for download, at a cost. That’s right, imagine using Bittorrent and paying money for the privilege.

Now anyone that uses Bittorrent is probably a downloader of some sort of illegally copyright material, be it albums, TV shows or movies. I know there are lots of other things to download, but these seem to be the main three that take up all that bandwidth. In fact, I have read (and it is probably speculation) that Bittorrent is now the most used application on the Internet, surpassing both email and surfing of the Worldwide webski. Maybe not in terms of numbers, but I can certainly see it being the case in terms of bandwidth.

So with all that in mind, what would make you pay for content over the sometimes hit-and-miss experience of bittorrent? When i say hit and miss, I mean there are people I know who don’t know a thing about opening ports on their router, are getting speeds of 5-10k and actually think this is the way it is. And then you have ISP’s that throttle ports, because they came to the conclusion long ago that Bittorrent=illegal. It can be that big a strain on an ISP’s bandwidth.

Well I know I would pay for extremely high definition content, delivered faster than ever before, that I could watch wherever I want, whenever I want, using whatever media player I want. Is this new dealie offering any of these things? Ok just one of these things? Remember I’m willing to pay?? no, no no.

First of all the format is WMV. My media player of choice (VLC) doesn’t always like that, so that doesn’t help. You can’t burn that format to a disc and stick it in a DVD player, so that restricts you to your computer monitor, which isn’t ideal. It has DRM, which means you can’t share it with your mates and loved ones, and finally the quality doesn’t seem very hi-def, and that is going by the file sizes of the Arrested Development episodes that I spotted going for $1.99 each.

Another thing I expect from legitimacy is speed. I use Azureus has my bittorrent client, and it comes with this content ‘thing’ called Zudeo. all the content there can be browsed and downloaded from within Azureus, and one thing I can guarntee is that it will come faster than superman on his honeymoon. My average bittorrent speed is somewhere in the 300kbps, but Zudeo trailers and short movies can zip to me at 450kbps, sometimes hitting the 500’s.

I tried to download a free episode of Mariposa HD from the Bittorrent Entertainment Network, and it was coming at 20-30kbps, and I got bored and cancelled the download.

The second craziest thing about the BEN, as Michael Jackson would call it, is that the movies expire within 24 hours of the viewer pressing play. This seems excessive. What’s wrong with seven days?

But the number one crazy thing about this service is more related to the nature of Bittorrent itself. They want you, yes you, to share the movie with your own bandwidth. Now I read recently that people downloading large files from servers isn’t the future, but neither is this. you can’t expect people to seed files that long expired on their own machines, just for the benefit of some other sucker who stumped up $1.99. For all these reasons, I say this service is dead on its feet. Look, even the porn is overpriced!! (So I’m told, by those who purchase the stuff)



4 responses

28 02 2007
Corrupted Mind

I think I have to disagree with you on the first point. Okay WMV is not perfect but it is pre-installed on every PC that has windows as the operating system, which means that (nearly) everone can watch the video straight of the bat. Not being able to burn it to DVD is pretty much standard fair with any other VOD service (Netflix and Amazon unboxed immediately spring to mind). There is no simple way to transfer your content to the big screen, but then that’s for the end user to decide, and guessing, I’m sure this will be compatible with Xbox Live, Windows media server and slingbox which means for the determined big screen content is a possibility. The HD point is fair, but I think this argument falls into the speed vs qualiy argument (When you consider that the competition has point to point downloading off servers coming down pretty quickly for those with a decent connection) BEN had to aim at matching those download times.

Excellent point on speed. 20/30kbs for anything, in this day and age is just unacceptable. Also a great point on 24 hr shelf life. That is not what most other services are offering me and I think that BEN doesn’t really realise that they are competing with other providers who give you far more time. I expect that to change shortly.

The final point you makes takes the biscuit, I think most illegal downloaders have difficulty seeding because they’re often keen to free up the CPU or internet connection (or both) for other activities. But some do,in the nature of the ad hoc rules of a community (sharing) content (I mean if no one shared you wouldn’t get what you wanted) To do that for a profit making company is just plain unacceptable. If they incentivised it, say a 1:1 UP/DL would get you free movies it may work, but then some people would never pay again (and I can’t see that as a positive for the old b-plan).

When I heard BT was going legit I thought immediately that he had plans for some kind of subscriber based, unlimited content service. Immediate bans for those sharing out of the network, incentivised seeding etc… but obviously it didn’t happen that way. I expect this service in its current iteration will struggle if not die a (very public) death.

28 02 2007

You say WMV is installed on every windows machine, but DivX and h.264 can be used on *every* single machine, Apple, Linux or windows. They are also more efficient than WMV, which has 22 mins of video at an average res at 233mb.

And you are worried about Speed and Quality, WMV will take longer to arrive, and it will look worse.

As for HD, they should at least have the option for an HD version, for people with computers that can handle it.

It’s all moot for me anyway, wild horses couldn’t get me to pay for bittorrent content. Either it’s free, or I pay for a copy that comes to me at the top speed direct from a server, to keep. Like itunes.

1 03 2007
Corrupted Mind

I thought it was you who told me “nothing legitimate is ever encoded in DivX” – in any case yeah h.264 is available on every single machine. But this is part of the problem rather than the cure, multiple formats means in effect you’re not catering for joe average with limited technical knowledge. (I like the way that my aunt calls iTunes videos – “DVD format”).

I agree, if I were selling online vids I wouldn’t encode them in WMV but then I don’t have studios breathing down my neck for whatever I’m selling to be DRM’d up. Likewise I think the format question is academic for anyone but the most hardened computer user. Jo shmo wants download and play, no upgrades, no dabbling with codecs and ac3 decoders just straight up click and sit back in computer chair/sofa with popcorn and for those reasons WMV presents a very easy (if inefficient) solution.

On the HD issue. Horses for courses. Okay some may want HD content but is it worth the effort to re-enc stuff for those people (bearing in mind that the number of people who want it and have a big enough pipe to download it in reasonable time is so small). Its hardly the sort of thing that will excite the accountants (I want to spend £x on re-enc 100 movies for 2% of my users).

Agree totally with the last comment. Good debate.


6 03 2007
Why the Bittorrent Entertainment Network sucks « Entertainment

[…] read more | digg story […]

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