BitTorrent + RSS = Decentralised Tivo?

Alias-fans assemble! Cracking idea from Scott Raymond. Quoting big chunks, but it’s worth it:

“With the addition of RSS, BitTorrent could really be taken to the next level, and I’d be able to forget about the plumbing of TV altogether. I want RSS feeds of BitTorrent files. A script would periodically check the feed for new items, and use them to start the download. Then, I could find a trusted publisher of an Alias RSS feed, and “subscribe” to all new episodes of the show, which would then start downloading automatically — like the “season pass” feature of the TiVo.”

He goes on to pitch it to the media owners:

“Illegitimate uses of this system would obviously abound. But the potential legitimate uses are huge as well. For one, traditional content providers (like the TV networks) could take advantage of the demand for their programming by scooping the copyright infringers. If ABC released Alias on BitTorrent with advertising built in, the file could be delivered to their audience very fast, and would cost them next to nothing in distribution costs. The economics of producing video programming would be upended — each viewer of the program would, in effect, foot the bill for a tiny slice of the distribution overhead, causing a massive component of traditional media company infrastructure to become obsolete.

It would be an audacious move for an advertising-supported channel. The arguments about skipping ads in Tivo is not necessarily avoided. You can imagine if they did do this, then they’d want you to download a handicapped, proprietary player, that was a player only- with no other button that “PLAY”, keyed to a proprietary file format that they’d use for the media itself.

Would I mind? I dunno… if I got to watch what I wanted. When I had my Tivo, I didn’t really care how the shows were encoded, but that was becuase the entire user-experience was so good. If I got stuck with a locked-up file format, and a bad player; then I’d be annoyed that there was no path for innovation or improvement around the experience.

Also, the argument might be made by the media owners, that if they didn’t lock the goods up, then some enterprising soul would edit the episode for ads and re-release it as a torrent.

Scott ends with a rousing paragraph:

“The result: the TV distribution networks are completely end-run by an ad-hoc, decentralized, loosely-coupled network. And in the process, significant opportunities are afforded to independent content producers of audio and video to reach a mass audience with insignificant distribution costs.”

Sounds very sensible to me… especially perhaps for a large public service broadcaster who doesn’t need to worry about those troublesome ad-revenues… The BBC will probably investigate all sorts of content-management and DRM gubbins in the course of it’s investigation of p2p-distribution (as mentioned by BBCi’s chef-du-digital Ashley Highfield previously) – whereas it has the information resources and the talent right now to quickly and (relatively) cheaply do what Scott has outlined.

Dear (Risk-Averse) Auntie: Here is the data. Turn it into RSS, make the links to torrents, let the community of early adopters who are screaming out to help you, help you.

Use these open standards to quickly and cheaply create the loam, and others [cf. Steam] will make great bleeding-edge clients and functionality to navigate your media-commons.

» scottraymondnet: 16 December, 2003 | Broadcatching with BitTorrent

0 comments
  1. Tomski said:

    RSSing the BBC TV & Radio Schedule is fine, cool, dandy – but knowingly linking to rights-infringing torrents???!

    Is that an appropriate action for a public service organisation?

    Scalable distribution tech is now the easy bit (thanks Bram!). Always was, really. Just a matter of time.

    The hard bit was, is, and will be the rights.

    Y’know, that nasty intellectual property stuff what netizens prefer to ignore, but them nasty courts seem to deem important.

    Fixing the rights issues so as to legitamise and liberate the potential of on-demand TV & radio over the net will be complicated. Dry. Difficult. Dull. Dirty work. A long haul. Boring to some…

    …but to to castigate the BBC cos it won’t break the law in the interest of innovation is wantonly myopic.

  2. Matt said:

    Mr. Loosemore takes me too seriously (for a change)

    Yeah, but Tom – if it did use it to distribute works where there would be rights problems, then The BBC could pay for realy good lawyers with the money it would save on not building the DRM system…

    ;-p

  3. matlock said:

    I had a discussion with a few people a while ago about something similar, but we came at if from a different angle. We were thinking about how much storage a Tivo or Sky+ box would need to make it more logical to just download a whole load of content daily in one hit from the satellite, rather than as a constant feed.

    We thought that broadband-enabling the set-top box would let you virtually link all the boxes in a town, city, or country into one huge edge server. This way, content could be shared over hundreds or thousands of relatively low-storage boxes, and then ‘torrented’ on demand to whoever wanted it. Users wouldn’t have to know where the content was, or what content was actually stored on their boxes; they’d just choose from the EPG and press play.

    All this is technically possible, but I wonder whether we’d ever be happy that we don’t ‘own’ or control the data on a home appliance, or even know what is actually on there. I think there might be too much of a sense of ‘place’ with home electronics to enable a super-distributed storage system like this. They’d probably be the usual power curve with a few uber-storers who are happy to let people access their data, then an invisible majority who prefer to pick stuff from the network, but keep their own stash hidden.

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