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BitTorrent Launches Legal Video Download Store

The internet is abuzz with chatter surrounding the launch of the BitTorrent Entertainment Network. Long viewed as a key enabler of internet piracy, BitTorrent has managed to land deals with almost all of the major studios other than Disney by combining the economics of its core P2P delivery technology with the DRM of Windows Media. "We've done now 34 deals with major studios and networks across the world that will be featured in the BitTorrent Entertainment Network," says Ashwin Navin, BitTorrent COO and cofounder.

In fact, according to this Digital Media Wire article by Michael Cai of Parks Associates, BitTorrent actually boasts stronger studio support than iTunes or Xbox Live Marketplace. Its launch lineup includes over 5,000 movies and TV shows as well as PC games and audio content.

Also touched upon in this article is the question of whether or not BitTorrent's users can be persuaded to give up their pirating ways in order to get their content legally. From the article: "Our consumer data shows that P2P users are much more likely to purchase movies than those who are not using a P2P network, leading us to believe that many P2P users are forced to steal."

But that's not necessarily the whole story, as pointed out in a CNET UK article:"BitTorrent's fate can arguably be predicted if we look at what happened to Kazaa-since going legal, its user base dropped from millions to hundreds in the blink of a gnat's eye."

That said, one can also argue that BitTorrent's user base of a reported 135 million provides such a massive market opportunity that the legal version doesn't need tremendous penetration to realize success. "With 135 million users we only need a small percentage of that market to make some significant inroads to this market," says Navin.

And in this New York Times article, BitTorrent claims that its own surveys have shown that 34% of their users would pay for content.

Also divulged in that article is the fact that while movies can currently only be rented through the service, BitTorrent has actually negotiated the rights to sell movies, but decided not to offer them due to the high prices studios were demanding they charge. In this NewsFactor.com article, Navin has said that BitTorrent is "really hammering the studios to say, 'Go easy on this audience'...We need to give them a price that feels like a good value relative to what they were getting for free." TV shows can be downloaded to own for $1.99 each.

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