Last November, BitTorrent made a move into Netflix and Amazon territory with the news that it would be releasing its first original piece of video content, Children of the Machine. Today, the peer-to-peer networking platform, which has 170 million active users, is kicking that strategy up another notch: it is entering a bigger partnership with Rapid Eye Studios — the production house that is behind Children of the Machine — to identify, produce and distribute more original video content for a new initiative called BitTorrent Originals, aimed initially at the 14-25 age bracket.
As part of this, part of BitTorrent’s team from Bundles — BitTorrent’s paid content service covering different kinds of media from books to music and video — will relocate to L.A. and work in Rapid Eye’s offices. There will be initially three people moving, including Matt Mason, BitTorrent’s chief content officer. “It signals how serious we are about being a media company,” a spokesperson tells me.
Indeed, this is a big step ahead for BitTorrent and another significant step away from its older reputation as a den of unlicensed, free premium content sharing.
“This landmark deal with Marco (Marco Weber, CEO of Rapid Eye Studios) is a major milestone for us and an aggressive expansion into the media space for BitTorrent, Inc.,” said Eric Klinker, CEO for BitTorrent, in a statement. “In the last two years, we’ve become a trusted and valid channel for creators and publishers to reach a monthly global audience of 170 million fans directly. Expanding into the world of original content is a move that makes us a serious player in the media business, and takes us another step closer toward our goal: creating a sustainable digital future for creators of all kinds.”
The Originals push complemented by the company launching enterprise-style services like Sync, communications services like Bleep for chatting, and also BitTorrent’s more radical stance as a holdout against the issues that cloud-based services face over snooping from the NSA and other organizations. (As a P2P service, there is no cloud for BitTorrent and all content stays local.)
It’s still pretty early days for the initiative and BitTorrent tells me that it is not announcing any financials around the deal — that is, no information about how much either side is investing, what sort of revenue shares will come out of the deal, and whether it involves BitTorrent actually investing in Rapid Eye more directly.
The idea behind Originals is that it will show first-run video content that it will sell through its Bundle “pay gate” model, for a period of between 30 and 60 days. After that, Originals may end up being sold through other channels, be they Amazon, Netflix or the silver screen. “All of those are possible,” the spokesperson tells me.
As background, Bundles is the distribution platform that BitTorrent has been slowly building up that lets creators sell content using a variety of different payment methods, including partial payments, to “unlock” certain parts of the content and advertising. Perhaps most notably, the model is disruptive in that it lets content creators keep 90 percent of the proceeds that their work makes through the platform.
BitTorrent says that it will be giving some parameters for what will be considered for its Originals: the content should be aimed at young adults between 14 and 25, and it needs to be new and fresh.
Children of the Machine begins filming this spring, with Marco Weber (Igby goes Down, Unthinkable, The 13th Floor) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithea, The Dangerous Live of Altar Boys) writing and producing the eight-episode, 60-minute sci-fi series, BitTorrent says.
It will be released in late 2015, and the company projects between 60 million and 80 million viewers globally. A premium version of the series will be available for $9.95, and they are already thinking of merchandising around it, including a video game.