BitTorrent has largely been synonymous with piracy in Hollywood, but now the peer-to-peer app company is touting the power of its platform to let content creators distribute intellectual property on their own terms to millions of Internet users.
Vice Media teamed with Madonna to release the “Art For Freedom” bundle via BitTorrent on Sept. 24. In less than three weeks, the “Art for Freedom” bundle has been downloaded more than 1.2 million downloads, according to the companies.
The bundle includes the 17-minute film “secretprojectrevolution,” which Madonna co-directed with Steven Klein, along with special bonus features, including an interview with Vice chief creative officer Eddy Moretti.
Vice, encouraged by the Madonna project, now plans to release an upcoming series of BitTorrent Bundles starting in mid-November featuring original video content that will “explore the relationship between open expression and open technology.”
Vice’s main goal in teaming with BitTorrent is certainly promotional, to garner attention for its original content — and using a platform shunned by traditional media congloms certainly plays into its contrarian ethos. In addition, by using BitTorrent, Vice can save money on bandwidth costs since files are downloaded directly among users over the Internet rather than from centralized servers.
“BitTorrent has been incredibly transformative for millennial audiences around the world, so this is a really exciting collaboration for us,” Vice Media VP of sales Ben Dietz said. “BitTorrent’s distribution platform gives millions instant access to the ‘story behind the story’ type (of) content we’re producing for this series of Bundles.”
“Transformative” is one way to put it. Studios, TV networks music labels and other traditional media companies have viewed BitTorrent as a scourge — enabling rampant piracy of their content. BitTorrent has countered that it’s no more a facilitator of piracy than a web browser, and that its application provides access to thousands of legal movies, songs, books and software applications.
The “Vice x BitTorrent Bundle” series will provide original videos, music, archival content and behind-the-scenes footage directly from artists. Select video features from each BitTorrent Bundle will be featured on Vice.com, its music website Noisey or the Thump electronic dance music channel. The BitTorrent Bundle format is designed to hold multiple file types, with the option of “unlocking” content if a user provides an email address or pays.
BitTorrent claims to have 170 million monthly active users. The company, founded in 2001, is backed by venture capital firms Accel Partners, DCM and DAG Ventures.
Vice, launched in 1994 as a punk magazine, is a multimedia brand that includes a global network of digital channels, a TV and feature film production studio and other properties. This year the Gotham-based company debuted its “Vice” news-magazine series on HBO.
In August, Vice sold a $70 million stake to 21st Century Fox, giving Fox a 5% stake in Vice and valuing the company at $1.4 billion.