BitTorrent is all set to launch a legal P2P video download service, BitTorrent Entertainment Network, that will offer television shows for sale and movies for rental from some of the major Hollywood studios. The news has created quite a stir amongst the technorati. Mathew Ingram, a man not known to mince words, is convinced that the new service is destined to fail. It is hard to disagree with his assessment, though our reasons are slightly different that his. Here is a short list of challenges we see for BitTorrent’s new store:
Internet Service Providers dislike BitTorrent
Internet Service Providers can limit download speeds, and can block default BitTorrent ports, and force an inferior experience. There are other ways ISPs can mess with the Torrent traffic. Expect broadband providers to ask for their pound of flesh, I mean dollars from BitTorrent and their content partners.
BitTorrent’s not easy, especially for novices
BitTorrent is still pretty tough to use for mainstream, less sophisticated users, and can leave novices pretty confused. Little things can ruin the experience.
Despite the P2P architecture’s elegance, the ability to download and playback the content right away is the top priority amongst non-geeky content customers. Any delays can turn off the customers for good.
Rememer that BitTorrent is a pay-it-forward kind of system: it downloads parts of a file, and then uploads it to others. Any problems in say your router or your firewall prevents you from getting the credits for uploading the file-slices. As a result your download speed gets crammed down. The slow upload speeds of most U.S. broadband connections could prove to be the bottleneck.
They can overcome most of their problems with their own super peer infrastructure, but that takes away much of the infrastructure cost savings. They have a partnership with CacheLogic that can fix these issues, but it is unclear if that infrastructure is in place.
Content on BitTorrent Store ain’t all that
BitTorrent needs to offer content that is far superior either in quality (HD for example) or in variety for users to switch from the click-and-download ease of the iTunes store, or similar such services.
Beyond that the content is shackled by very limiting digital rights management software. DRM, as Ingram rightfully points out, works against the BTL (BitTorrent Legit). BT team knows that, and said so in The New York Times.
Furthermore, downloads require Windows Media Player and works only on Windows machines and is tied to one single PC for now.
Who uses the official BT client?
BitTorrent’s official client has lost out to alternative clients including Azureus and BitComet.
Why pay to play?
How do you convince people to pay for something they are used to downloading for free by using BitTorrent? This is especially hard since BT also offers a torrent search engine on their site, which also comes up with the illegal stuff. Will they start stripping out the legal content from their search service?