Wednesday, January 30

RSS + Bittorrent distribution for TV and online video

The Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has made their most popular TV series available DRM-free via BitTorrent, even better it's available as a subscribe-able RSS feed via software like Miro. Shown here is the subscribe-able feed in Miro the popular open source video aggregater.

I just wish the show was available in English. :)

Entire and partial news programs like CNN, ABC and CBS nightly news are already widely available via subscribe-able RSS feed (podcast), and the Daily Show, Colbert Report and other highly popular TV shows have been widely distributed unofficially via similar means on, but this may be the first TV show to officially embrace this technology pioneered by video bloggers.

I expect that this form of distribution (RSS + Bittorrent) will become increasingly popular with TV producers as they realize it does not threaten their traditional advertising supported models.

To start with I expect PBS, BBC or other distributors less threatened by peer based distribution (P2P) culture to officially embrace the RSS + bittorrent distribution model.

NPR has already widely embraced RSS distribution (aka. podcasting) for audio programing with over 500 subscribe-able channels for their radio shows, and PBS has a dozen or so subscribe-able video podcasts though they are currently just partial shows or show clips. I expect timely news programs such as Frontline will be the first to officially embrace the RSS + bittorrent distribution model as bittorrent scales much better for popular, timely, high definition content, much like the Daily Show and Colbert Report.

RSS + bittorrent distribution is a counter point to new proprietary distribution services from content creators like (currently only available via private beta) and and which are only currently available by visiting and watching programing on website, have no subscription mechanisms, and are not available beyond desktop computers.... i.e. on your TV or hand held device.

There are also alternative systems like Joost and Veoh but while these proprietary 3rd part networks have a high degree of usability and interface polish as is typical of proprietary solutions they lack the flexibility to scale to handle the wide variety of newly available content on the web and the various cellular, hand held and set top box platforms.

Of course there are also solutions from Apple, and Tivo for television producers, but these are increasingly complimentary to RSS / Podcasting and perhaps in the future even added bittorent distribution.

What makes RSS + bittorrent such a powerful combination is it's increasingly openly accessible to virtually anyone who wishes to distribute media online via various services, and RSS / podcasting is already starting to be adopted by set top box, cellular, and handheld manufacturers like Apple (AppleTV, iPod & iPhone), Tivo, Nokia, Akimbo and many others.

Bittorrent is the final piece of the puzzle allowing extremely rapid scaling for the distribution of high definition content but it may take much longer to popularize do the greater technical requirements in implementation on various hardware platforms.


Anonymous said...

Why doesn't it threaten their advertising supported model? It seems to me as soon as get our tv shows via bit torrent we cut out the advertiser. From what I've seen the networks and studios are very afraid of this technology.

Michael Meiser said...

You can skip commercials on Tivo too... and you rip from tivo and upload to bittorrent. The point is as the market becomes fluid and there are official bittorrent distributions for tv episodes with commercials with mixed advertisements not easily cut out... like overlays... something we're moving to already... there will be significantly less demand
for pirated versions.

Right now what's driving p2p is no alternative.

Sure you could edit the program to cut some of the commercials, sure you could skip commercials. But you can do that in Tivo anyway.

BTW, not saying that the networks aren't afraid, just that they shouldn't and the way things are headed they'll get used to ideas like this, and if not embracing this idea then something similarly open in 5 years or so.