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BitTorrent Entertainment Network to be unveiled tomorrow

Evan Blass

We're still reeling over the fact that BitTorrent -- the same company that invented every pirate's favorite "sharing technology" -- has signed deals with numerous content providers to offer for-pay movie, TV show, and video game downloads, but if the developers of Kazaa can get in bed with the Hollywood studios, we suppose that anything can happen. Well despite our initial disbelief, Bram Cohen and friends are poised to unveil the BitTorrent Entertainment Network on Monday, according to The New York Times, which has pricing details and even a few initial observations. According to the Times, Fox, Paramount, Warner, and MGM will contribute a combined total of some 3,000 new and classic movies to the service, but unlike selections from rivals Apple, Amazon, and Walmart, BTEN flicks will only be available to rent: the $2.99 or $3.99 downloads expire after either 30 days or 24 hours from when viewing begins. Unlike these questionably-attractive rentals, users will get to keep other types of content such as TV shows ($1.99-a-pop), music videos, and as-yet-undisclosed PC games. Commercial downloads will be intermingled with the free content that BitTorrent fans are accustomed to swapping, and will be protected by Microsoft DRM -- a condition that Cohen begrudgingly accepted, claiming, "We are not happy with the user interface implications..It's an unfortunate thing. We would really like to strip it all away." The good news here is that torrenting does seem to offer an advantage over other methods of content delivery: the Times reports that the same movie which took three hours to download from Walmart's service clocked in at only two hours using BTEN. We're eagerly awaiting the initial reviews and reactions to this potentially major addition to the digital download game, and we're especially curious to see if the catalog and pricing structure are enough to meet BitTorrent's goal of converting habitual pirates into big-spending, law-abiding netizens.

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