It’s no secret that most media companies are not thrilled about BitTorrent piracy.
However, instead of fighting a futile battle to eradicate all unauthorized downloads, BitTorrent can also offer a unique insight into the viewing habits of millions of people.
Fairfax, one of Australia’s largest media outlets, appears to realize this.
At a government broadband conference in Sydney, Fairfax’s head of video Ricky Sutton admitted that in a country with one of the highest percentage of BitTorrent users worldwide, his company determines what shows to buy based on the popularity of pirated videos online.
“One of our major ways to get content is going to BitTorrent, and other BitTorrent sites, and find what people are illegally downloading to then go to the content owner and say, ‘hey, I watched this last night it’s going awesome on BitTorrent’ and then say ‘how about giving it to us?”‘
In other words, BitTorrent serves as one of the main market research strategies for the Aussie media outlet. And it doesn’t stop there as The Australian reports.
Fairfax says it also advertises to BitTorrent users, sharing the revenue they generate from converted pirates with the BitTorrent platforms.
“We then bring [the video content] over here and we advertise on BitTorrent that it’s legally available on our platform, and then pay some revenue share based on it. That’s worked quite effectively,” Sutton says.
Sutton didn’t name any of the platforms where they advertise their content, but we assume that he’s talking about BitTorrent sites since BitTorrent Inc., the San Francisco parent company of the popular uTorrent software, informs TorrentFreak they are not working with Fairfax.
It’s refreshing to see a high media executive admitting that BitTorrent trends offer useful insights, although it’s certainly not a new approach. P2P-intelligence has been used for more than half a decade in the entertainment industry.
Leaked emails from the piracy “intelligence” company MediaDefender previously showed that record label Interscope used piracy data to determine what single to release next.
Fairfax’s decision to share revenue with BitTorrent platforms, however, is more controversial and will certainly raise some eyebrows at other media outlets.
As can be seen from their video programming, Fairfax mostly buys independent content that’s doing well on BitTorrent, not any of the major U.S. TV-shows.