BBC Gets Ready for BitTorrent Distribution

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Today the BBC published the first episode of R&DTV, a Creative Commons licensed show that users are allowed to remix, redistribute and share. The first episode of the monthly technology show features Digg's Kevin Rose, among others. The BBC hopes to use BitTorrent for the distribution of future episodes.

rdtvLike many broadcasters today, the BBC is open to experimenting with online video distribution, allowing viewers to watch shows online. However, due to complex copyright issues people are not generally allowed to share or remix the videos – until now. For their new R&DTV production, the BBC is using a Creative Commons license, giving the viewer the freedom to redistribute and re-use the show.

To add to the excitement there are also plans to use BitTorrent to distribute the show and source material. The BBC is one of the partners in the EU funded P2P-Next research project that uses BitTorrent technology to shape the future of web based TV delivery. BitTorrent is very effective in reducing bandwidth costs and thanks to technology developed by the P2P-Next team it can also be used to stream TV-shows, and even live video.

The BBC is not offering BitTorrent downloads or streams for R&DTV just yet, but they do hope to use P2P-Next (and therefore BitTorrent) for future episodes. This could be done by embedding BitTorrent powered streams in their site or alternatively they could offer regular .torrent downloads.

R&DTV is published in a full 30 minute version and a brief 5 minute edition offering just the highlights. Both are available in various video formats but that’s not all. For every episode, all of the source material – including raw footage not used in the full show – is also included in the so-called asset bundle.

In true BitTorrent style the downloads come with a ASCII art Scene-inspired NFO file disguised as readme.txt. “We’re pretty excited and ask you to please tell us what you do end up doing with the asset bundle, so we can learn what works and what does not work and fix it next time we release another asset bundle,” the BBC writes on the download page where the show is posted.

BBC’s official BitTorrent compatible ASCI Logo.


We applaud the BBC for being one of the few content publishers not to shy away from BitTorrent and file-sharing in general. We’ve previously written about Norwegian state TV that launched its own BitTorrent tracker, but unfortunately they forbid people from redistributing or remixing their shows.

By using a Creative Commons license the BBC seems to understand that this is one of the key elements of 21st century broadcasting, and we hope to see more initiatives like this in the future.


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