Right now I’m in the process of developing an online distribution plan for my first feature film ‘Footsteps’, and it’s led me to discover a completely new platform called BitTorrent Bundles. Up until now I’ve primarily been looking at the major players as options – iTunes, Netflix, Vimeo On Demand, Hulu, etc. And while all of these platforms are excellent, they’re also fairly similar to each other in their approach (with the exception of how revenue is generated). But BitTorrent Bundles is offering a very different way of distributing content that is completely unmatched by anyone else in terms of it’s concept and potential.
Many of you I’m sure have used BitTorrent in the past to download music, movies, software (or all sorts of other legal content!), but have likely never considered it as a platform to share your work on, possibly because you question the legitimacy of BitTorrent and weren’t aware of it’s capabilities. But let’s set the record straight, BitTorrent is and always has been a very legitimate operation. While many users did use the platform the pirate content, BitTorrent themselves were only trying to develop software to allow for a global sharing platform between users. Keep that in mind as you read on.
So what exactly is BitTorrent’s new model and how can we as filmmakers utilize it?
The full name of the service is ‘BitTorrent Bundles’, and it’s an exceptionally powerful way for content creators to share their work with a massive audience either for free, for profit, or for any number of other benefits. A ‘Bundle’ is a downloadable package that you create that can consist of just about any files that you’d like to make available. So if you have a feature film for example, you might create a downloadable bundle with the film, the trailer, a copy of the script, some behind the scenes videos, or any other special features.
Here’s where the idea gets really powerful though. BitTorrent users are able to easily preview a file in your bundle (let’s say the trailer), but in order to download the entire package, they need to unlock it by performing an ‘action’. And you have the choice of what they need to do to unlock it. Common options include having the user: Share the download link on Facebook/Twitter, enter their e-mail address, re-direct to a physical store or other online platform (iTunes), or ask for a set amount of money.
If your primary goal as a filmmaker is to sell your film and make money off of it, then having the ability to charge money for it on a platform with hundreds of millions of users is pretty remarkable. Or alternatively, maybe you’re less concerned about the profit and more concerned about getting your name out there. If this is the case, then you can give it away for free, but request the link is tweeted or shared on Facebook, which will immediately start to help spread the word. There are any number of options here, but the great thing is that they are fully customizable and unique to each project’s needs.
In general I think BitTorrent is really onto something for a number of reasons. First off, their idea is different. No other major online platform allows filmmakers the flexibility that BitTorrent Bundles does, and this alone will be enough to entice just about any content creator. Secondly, since this is a peer to peer system, download speeds with be exceptionally fast. This is relevant not only as a convenience, but also given the fact that 4K content will be able to be delivered more easily on BitTorrent than on sites like Netflix as the speeds are far superior. And finally, the system is completely decentralized. It is all about getting your content from you to your audience without any fluff in between. BitTorrent will not take any cut of your profit if you’re selling the film through their site, and it seems they simply want to continue to drive up the user base and add more and more quality content to their library.
So this is all great news and an excellent option for the future of on-line distribution, but the downside is that right now it isn’t available to just anyone. Unlike sites like Vimeo On Demand, you can’t just upload your file and start selling it. In order to get your film on BitTorrent as a Bundle, you’ll actually need to submit your film to BitTorrent directly and if they see it as a good fit for their platform you’ll be notified. Eventually I would predict that this service will become much more inclusive and accessible for every film maker, but as of now things are still developing. For now though, some high profile films are already making their rounds on the site including a new short film co-directed by Madonna, but hopefully soon we will start to see more and more indie features popping up. If you want to be notified by BitTorrent as this platform starts to grow and evolve, be sure to join their ‘BitTorrent Bundles For Publishers’ waiting list here.
Speaking for myself, all of this was enough to convince me to submit my film to BitTorrent as to me the system represents one of the most powerful and fair approaches to online distribution. What do you think? Is BitTorrent Bundles the way of the future for online distribution?
If you’re reading this but are still developing your film, be sure to check out my article – 5 Tips For Writing Better Characters Into Your Screenplay. After all, no matter what path you go down to distribute, ultimately the quality of your content will be the deciding factor in the success of your film.
HI Noam, I wonder if you would mind delving a little further into the whole process of you distribution process with ‘Footsteps’?
Was your initial release with BitTorrent? and did you decide to distribute through any other avenue? If not .. why? Also what made you decide to keep all the distribution rights? (if that is what you have done)
Thanks so much.
the pirate bayat
But over the past few years, IPTV has dwarfed
the quality of DVD and Cable TV. So far, reactions on the acquisition, as
well as towards the announcement of the new business model, are actually mixed,
but only time will tell whether or not just a revamped version of
the massively popular peer-to-peer website will likely be as
successful becasue it is predecessor. The most enjoyable element of Revenge in the Fallen is its sheer familiarity.
Hi Noam. I am still looking into BitTorrent since if they take no fees, it may just be more worth my while. I have to understand their questionnaire regarding the technical terms – I don’t even know what a torrent is even though I’ve heard about this term. (So I’m asking a friend that pirates torrents all the time.) Vimeo takes 10% + credit fees which can equal a total of 17% plus a $200/year fee. I foresee only people who I know that would actually be interested in my project in the short run purchasing my film and I don’t see people just perusing vimeo persay to really want to spend $10 to watch my movie. But in the long run, it is great to have the movie out there to see whoever would “bite”. ooo – I just see now your movie on bit torrent! Congratulations! Do you like the service so far? Have you had any unique downloaders? Did you have to supply a link to your whole movie in the artist’s questionnaire? If so, did you create a secure page for only them to see it? I’m so interested in that. Like I said, I know very little in this area. I think I figured out a little more. You have your movie on amazon (?) and bit torrents is linked to that? I’m checking out what other bundle content creators are using – topsmedia.com looks legit for reasonable fee with software and perks. Ok, I gotta do more research. Thanks for anything I’ve learned so far from your blog and any more insight you give.
Thank you very much for this info. I’m so new in the digital distribution info world. I have a 2.5 hour movie and am looking for the best way to distribute and make money. Ideally, I would like to create on my website the ability for password protected area once people pay for the film through paypal, but I am coming up empty with that info on how to create that. Your article seems to top all the other options, but it may still not be available. Reelhouse.org seems the “cheapest” so far. Then again, today has been the first day I’ve done any research other than wonder about netflicks, amazon, itunes, vimeo and youtube. I’m so new. But soon I will be filled with knowledge. I asked to sign up on the BitTorrent site. Looks so closed ?
Thanks for the note Catherine. Yes BitTorrent is currently a closed system, but if you apply to them they may very well accept your film. Have you checked out Vimeo On Demand? Sounds like it might work really well for your needs.
This is actually really interesting, you’re right I havent seen any of the bigger guys doing this. Follow up article on your experience with Bittorrent would be much appreciated. The only thing is, in the public’s eye, can they overcome their stigma of piracy, and will it catch on? Only time will tell but this new platform is interesting and exciting for sure, great ideas here.
I will definitely continue to update on my progress with BitTorrent, and am quite eager to see how things play out. I have a hunch if they implement this idea properly, the general public may quickly jump on board, but you’re right that the stigma may hold some back initially. If nothing else I’m just glad the idea is now out there as I’m sure we will start to see this model being copied by other companies.