This week, BitTorrent revealed that it would be revamping its Bundle offering as a pilot project called “BitTorrent Now.”
The Bundle feature has been heavily used by independent musicians and filmmakers in addition to the BBC and other major media organizations. It will soon accept ads, effectively monetizing its free service even if it causes some processors undue pain.
“BitTorrent Now… adds our first mobile steaming apps, and it adds an important new business model for our creative partnerships: ad-supported streaming,” explained Christian Averill, BitTorrent vice president of marketing.
Creators interested in participating in the pilot version of the app will keep 70 percent of all ad revenue.
“That’s better than the industry standard,” stated Averill. BitTorrent will collect the additional 30 percent of the revenue.
Bundle used to allow publishers to keep 90 percent of all sales revenue and 100 percent of all fan data, a situation that was highly advantageous, if unsustainable, for artists and creators. “The 90/10 split remains for direct sales via download,” explained Averill. “Artists can choose whether they want to distribute their work for free, in exchange for an email, as a paid download, or as an ad-supported stream.”
Bundle also had no size or format restrictions. The new streaming capabilities of BitTorrent now “does present some limitations,” pointed out Averill. “Downloads offer the same freedom as always,” he conceded.
Russ Crupnick, managing partner at MusicWatch, added that “Selling ads is a tough business… any time artists have a distribution outlet, it’s a win.”
At the same time, Crupnick clarified that it’s “not likely” that BitTorrent Now will change the artist/label/publisher/distribution model too much.
“BitTorrent’s core business- music downloads- is declining as a share of the total music industry,” pointed out Zhaowen Wu, an industry analyst at Strategy Analytics. According to Wu, BitTorrent’s new move may be part of a larger struggle to compete in an internet era where downloading music isn’t even necessary anymore.
Wu says that downloads “will continue to decline, while advertising is expected to increase… In general, consumer spending is going downwards. That’s why BitTorrent is adding the streaming service and trying to chase the ad dollars.”
Wu continued on to explain that the revenue share offered by BitTorrent is likely to be found “pretty attractive for artists” but will also make its user base “much smaller” than the likes of say, Amazon Music, Google Play and Spotify.
Regardless of the state of the music industry, Stratecast/Frost & Sullican program manager Mike Jude offered that ad streaming “looks like a logical way to to generate additional income.”
According to Jude, BitTorrent is “very careful to emphasize the indie artist scene, but it’s inevitable that other content will make its way into the BitTorrent Now space… This puts it in competition with any conventional streaming service, [including] YouTube, Amazon and Apple.”
“A 70 percent commission doesn’t seem reasonable or sustainable,” Jude continued. “It’s likely the commission will decline if the feature is maintained.”