BitTorrent Good For TV?

Though the studios just enlisted AT&T to go after their file-sharing customers and Azureus is being sued in France, I wonder if BitTorrent has some legitimate value for the content owners/creators. (Sure, BT can be used to share non-copyrighted media – but let’s be serious.)


Here’s the situation: My buddy Jason told me to check out Traveler, so I set up a Season Pass on TiVo. Only problem was, the third episode was airing and TiVo didn’t find any repeats of the earlier shows. Now what? I visit and discover they have the first and third episode available for web streaming, but they’re missing the second (and now the fourth). Considering Traveler is a serial, I can’t miss any episodes. So off I go to pay the iTunes tax of $2/show only to discover they don’t offer it. Xbox 360 Video Marketplace? Microsoft doesn’t have a deal with ABC. All I (and ABC) am left with is BitTorrent – I downloaded the still-buggy FoxTorrent and headed off to The Pirate Bay. And guess what… BitTorrent helped make me into a live ABC television viewer. Not to mention I’m now pitching their show to others. Will it be enough to save Traveler?

In order, here’s how I watched the first four episodes:

  1. – The interface can be a bit tedious at times, but hey it’s free and works on Macs.
  2. Xbox Media Center (XBMC) – The Xvid download looked nice on my HDTV.
  3. TiVo Series3 – Timeshifted HD.
  4. ABC – The series is so good, I’ll watch it live going forward.

I’m still a year behind in shows like Deadwood and Entourage because I wait for the DVDs to be released. However, I’m not alone in being willing to pay for timely content. The studios are improving/modernizing, but probably not fast enough. Jackson West of NewTeeVee has an interesting BitTorrent proposal:

I’m proposing I’ll send HBO a check every month in exchange for immunity from prosecution. I would pay the monthly subscription just to be able to watch their original programming in a timely way without ethical qualms or fear of retribution.

Of course we’ll never see that happen, but these guys can help themselves by making their content more readily available online. Heck, many of us are even willing to pay.

14 thoughts on “BitTorrent Good For TV?”

  1. If you try to use’s interface it wants to install a viewer, and this is what you need to agree to (CAPS are mine for emphasis):

    “Click Trust to run this applet and allow UNRESTRICTED ACCESS TO YOUR COMPUTER. Click Don’t Trust to run this applet with standard java restrictions.”

    Of course, if you hit ‘Don’t Trust,” it cancels the install.

    Sorry, no show is THAT good.

  2. That message sure does sound ominous and I would think twice before installing. Hm, I wonder if I installed it some time in the past and forgot about it OR maybe it’s not used on the Mac? Of course the most likely scenario is that I just clicked through without reading.

  3. I can say with some authority that BitTorrent is not allowed at the Marriott in West Palm Beach. :)

  4. I did the exact same thing with Lost when it first came out.

    I missed the first 4 episodes and downloaded from bittorrent. I can honestly say that BT lead directly to at least 10 other people I convinced to watch the show.

  5. alright, I’m going to have to try the show out. Especially since I’m light on TV anyway, and hell, it’s got Trey from the OC! (I admit it, I watched seasons 1 and 2 and a little bit of 3 of the OC…)

  6. I’m sure they must mean unrestricted access of your computer to the content. :)

    Its always good when folks want to watch your shows in some manner. Put the darn shows on bit torrent yourself. Refresh the commercials every 24 hours. Get with it.

    What is this Traveler? Am I out of step again?

  7. Those of us living overseas have even fewer choices. We’re IP geo-blocked from viewing the shows on ABC’s site (see for an example of the kinds of kiss-off we get), and iTunes won’t let us buy US shows unless we have a US billing address on our credit card (though there is a workaround – buy an iTunes gift card in the US and register it with a fake address).

    I’d like to obtain certain shows legally, and am willing to spend money to watch them on their US airdates, but they won’t let me!

  8. “I’m sure they must mean unrestricted access of your computer to the content.”

    I don’t know them and neither do you, so I don’t think you can be sure–but just because you or I would do the right thing (or not do the wrong thing), doesn’t mean I’m going to “sign” something that gives them the “rights” to do what they want.

  9. Dave, I wish I had your problems!

    Imagine you were a Canadian and it isn’t available to you online (legally) for any price because the Yanks haven’t negotiated the online distribution rights outside the U.S.of.A yet – and there is no sign they ever will!

    This is the world I face daily!

    :) …Dale


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