How BitTorrent can save the television and movie industries

I love BitTorrent.

As soon as I got high speed internet, the first thing I did was download the entire three seasons of Star Trek the Original Series. Why? Because I could. BitTorrent made it possible.

I still might buy the DVD sets because the extras seem really great and I’ve never seen them, but right now knowing that I have all the episodes on a couple of formally blank DVDs is enough for me.

I’ve downloaded other shows because I don’t get that network i.e. Deadwood on HBO and Battlestar Galactica on SciFi or I had heard they were really great i.e. Dr. Who on BBC or both. The price point on the first season of Deadwood on DVD (thirteen episodes mind you…) is $100, which is too rich for my blood on a show that I didn’t really know if I’d like. So, I downloaded a few episodes for preview and now the first season is on my Christmas list.

Today, it’s amazingly easy to get whatever multimedia you want — music, movies, television episodes, programs, pictures, videos — it’s all there for the taking. Obviously, this is terribly illegal.

Of course, there are plenty of legal ways to get music off of the internet. Apple’s iTunes Music Store has sold half a billion songs since April of 2003. When users can download only the songs they want at 99¢ a track, the industry’s traditional business model — charging a high price ($17-$19) for a heavily promoted, shrink-wrapped product — gets obsolete pretty fast. Even Wal-Mart understands this and is pushing the music industry for $9.99 CDs – a move that is long overdue.

Now, you can’t gloss over the public’s fascination with packaging, lyrics, pictures and other multimedia pieces of the pie in a traditional CD. However, it appears that most consumers just want the music and specifically only the tracks that appeal to them.

Part of this paradigm shift is the rise of digital music players and specifically Apple’s iPod, the industry leader. I can load my 20G iPod with pretty much my entire music catalog or create specific playlists for whatever mood I’m in. It’s the 21st century equivalent of creating mix tapes, mix CDs and the like except now instead of having ten of twelve mix CDs in the car, I now have everything I’d ever want musically in a package about the size of a deck of playing cards.

Apple created a perfect model for downloading music legally and plenty of users went to iTunes to purchase their music to play on their spiffy iPods. Why can’t the television and movie industries figure out a way to capitalize on this trend?

All they’d have to do is archive a digital copy of their movie or television library on a series of authorized servers. They could charge $1.99 (the iTunes video TV price) for an individual TV episode and $2.99 for a movie via an online company store and watch the revenue pour in. The best part is that they could use the free BitTorrent client/application as their download program of choice.

The only thing really missing from this equation is a portable player. I’d create a player that one could hook to their computer via USB and transfer the downloaded video for future playback. The iPod video is a step in the right direction, but the screen is too small for my tastes. I’d like to see something similar to the portable DVD players that are all the rage on long car trips. These players would have a large enough screen and a decent size hard drive that could handle DVD quality movies as well as Quicktime movies (mov and avi) and, if it has to, Windows Media Player files. Heck, it might even still be able to play DVDs too. We are right on the cusp of demand for this type of electronics.

There will always be a demand for DVD sets and regular network programming because people like to have that community/family experience staring at the boob tube after supper (or during). However, it seems apparent to me that creating an authorized digital library will create another revenue stream, show end users that these media companies are embracing the technology and create another doorway into a network’s other programming.

I should be in marketing.