BitTorrent moves from piracy to video streaming

BOSTON Tue Oct 9, 2007 11:09am EDT

A screen grab of BitTorrent.com. BitTorrent Inc., which was co-founded by the developer of a software program widely used to share pirated music and video over the Web, plans to start helping media companies stream videos over the Internet. REUTERS/www.bittorrent.com

A screen grab of BitTorrent.com. BitTorrent Inc., which was co-founded by the developer of a software program widely used to share pirated music and video over the Web, plans to start helping media companies stream videos over the Internet.

Credit: Reuters/www.bittorrent.com

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BOSTON (Reuters) - BitTorrent Inc., which was co-founded by the developer of a software program widely used to share pirated music and video over the Web, plans to start helping media companies stream videos over the Internet.

The company unveiled the service on Tuesday, six years after its chief executive, Bram Cohen, created the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing technology.

BitTorrent is one of two key technologies used for trading files over the Web. The other, Gnutella, works using software programs including Limewire and MP3 Rocket.

While the BitTorrent software has been notorious as a tool for piracy, Cohen said he spent three years working to find ways to commercialize the technology

In February, the privately held company opened an online video store at www.bittorrent.com to sell videos licensed from Hollywood studios. Now it is offering that distribution technology to other companies.

BitTorrent announced the new service on Tuesday, dubbed BitTorrent DNA, saying its first customer, Brightcove, will use it to distribute streaming video programs over the Internet.

Brightcove currently distributes video programs over the Internet for companies including CBS Corp, News Corp's Fox Entertainment Group, Viacom Inc's MTV Networks and New York Times Co.

The two companies did not say which programs Brightcove will distribute over BitTorrent, which also allows files to be shared. As one user downloads a file, or watches a streaming video, BitTorrent DNA software sends data to another computer seeking the same files.

"It uses your computer in a way that's very polite. When you're downloading something you're also uploading something," BitTorrent President Ashwin Navin said in an interview. "Users are aware of that when they read the user agreement when they download the BitTorrent (software) client."

In addition to streaming video, BitTorrent DNA can also distribute video and software downloads.

Navin said BitTorrent DNA can boost the efficiency of video-streaming networks that use services provided by Akamai Technologies Inc and Limelight Networks Inc, which help speed the delivery of Web content.

Most companies spend more than 20 cents an hour to stream video over the Internet, which means they lose money because they cannot pull in more than 20 cents an hour in advertising revenue, Navin said.

BitTorrent DNA will help customers push the cost of streaming video to less than 20 cents per hour, he said.

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