Following Norwegian broadcaster NRK’s highly-successful trial of using BitTorrent for program distribution, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has just released a prime-time episode of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister onto the torrent globally.
According to the last100 report, the CBC’s media release was clear:
“The show will be completely free (and legal) for you to download, share & burn to your heart’s desire.”
In a follow-up post Inside story: the making of a legal TV ‘torrent’,
freelance producer Interactive Producer for CBC Guinevere Orvis explains how they got the approvals sorted within the CBC.
The issues, as always, were ownership, demographics, tracking, monetising and rights and approvals — especially the last two.
Rights are hands down the number one challenge to getting traditional TV online. It’s also not an unreasonable request for content producers to demand rights to work they made, it can just be a very difficult process to get them all… think dribbling a football type difficult. If the idea of a legal TV torrent was going to die, it would likely be in the chain of approvals we had to get including: union agreements, music licenses, lawyer approval, co-owner (Magna International Inc) approval, marketing and sales okay, business development reps, communication strategy, and finally approval from the network programming office. Yep, that’s a mouthful…
So why isn’t your favourite show on BitTorrent already? Officially I mean 🙂 Take your pick: licensing, rights, approvals, sponsorships, business partnerships, control, business model, statistics, or simple resistance to change. I expect it would take a pretty big fight to get shows shared that are co-owned by multiple companies or which have extensive licensing contracts, like NHL games. There needs to be a fundamental shift in thinking about digital distribution before all of these stakeholders realize it’s a good idea and that’s one of the reasons that our experiment is so important. There will be no precedent, no metrics and no business model will ever develop if broadcasters don’t start somewhere. What we’re learning from this could help form the basis of a broader understanding and acceptance of BitTorrent among rights holders.
The CBC had one factor working in their favour, says Orvis:
As a public broadcaster, our mandate to “be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means” really helped the cause.