BitTorrent going legal with P2P

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BitTorrent is scheduled to launch its long-awaited legal peer-to-peer content network today, complete with more than 5,000 movie, TV, game and music titles.

The BitTorrent Entertainment Network, available at BitTorrent.com, will be backed by current and catalog programming from a slew of studio and TV partners that signed on last year, including 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, MTV Networks, Paramount and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. MGM Studios is the latest partner added to the list, bringing more than 30 content deals to bear.

New movie releases will be available for the rental price of $3.99, and catalog titles will move for $2.99. TV episodes can be downloaded to own for $1.99. Top-shelf content will include "Superman Returns," "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Prison Break."

The launch will put BitTorrent in an increasingly crowded digital marketplace populated by the likes of Apple's iTunes, Amazon's Unbox and Microsoft's Xbox 360. However, BitTorrent brings with it a huge already active user base worldwide of more than 70 million that largely engage in illegal sharing.

If BitTorrent can convert just a fraction of its users to legal, paid content, it will be a success, according to Ashwin Navin, president and co-founder of BitTorrent.

"The legacy usage of BitTorrent is our own competition," Navin said. "We think we can offer a better experience than piracy."

BitTorrent's network also will come equipped with a self-publishing option for amateur content distributors. Navin said 150,000 content creators already have signed up.

Among the partners BitTorrent has signed up is Kodokawa, a Japanese studio specializing in anime programming. The offering is part of the distinctly young male skew BitTorrent will target its content mix at, given that 85% of its audience is males 16-35. "We're not trying to be everybody's service."

Navin also said BitTorrent is developing technology that will allow for advertising insertion, which could enable some content to be acquired at no cost.
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