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Warner Adopts File-Sharing in BitTorrent Deal

9 May, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group has inked a deal with file-trading service BitTorrent Inc. for online delivery of motion picture and television content in the United States, becoming the first major studio to provide legal video content through the service.

The venture is intended to launch in summer 2006 and will initially feature more than 200 Warner catalog favorites, television series and new releases on the same day as the DVD release. Initial titles will include Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, The Dukes of Hazzard, North Country and Rumor Has It…, as well as library titles such as The Matrix, Dog Day Afternoon, Natural Born Killers and Vegas Vacation. TV programming will include shows such as "Babylon 5" and "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Content will be available on the BitTorrent.com Web site.

“We haven't announced any pricing details yet and we probably will closer to the launch of the service this summer,” said Lilly Lin, director of communications at BitTorrent.

She said the service plans to create a marketplace where users would order movies for pay-per-view, for download, by subscription or as an ad-supported model.

“It is similar to traditional retail,” said Jim Wuthrich, SVP of digital distribution for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “We'll sell them at a set price and they can determine what the retail price will be. This is an extension of our anti-piracy program. It is all about providing legitimate product.”

He said customers would get a legitimate, quality download that could be burned to a DVD and play on a PC.

The announcement follows BitTorrent's agreement with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to prevent film piracy and promote innovation in online digital distribution of content. The agreement was key to the Warner deal, said Darcy Antonellis, EVP of distribution technology and operations for Warner Bros.

“[BitTorrent has] been actively trying to remove illegal product in their system and the next step is to offer legitimate product that their consumers can purchase using their technology,” Wuthrich added.

He said the studios hopes the move will cut down on online piracy.

“There are people out there who for whatever reason will not pay for content,” he said. “But we also believe there is an audience out there that is using these services today that have an interest in getting legitimate product.”

Antonellis added the venture also is about going to places where normal consumers typically aren't.

“It is about looking for opportunities for incremental growth,” she said.

BitTorrent's system, which breaks down files into small pieces for faster peer-to-peer delivery, is the first such network in the United States that combines guaranteed availability, high-quality video and rapid download rates, a Warner release stated. Lin said the software has always been free and currently is used by about 65 million people worldwide.

"The technology behind BitTorrent is elegantly designed for the delivery of large files like TV programs and films. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group was established to provide innovative, next-generation distribution models, and this relationship provides our company with a unique platform to reach a new set of movie fans," said Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. "BitTorrent has made the leap in creating a legal partnership that respects the value of the intellectual property. This has provided us with a next-generation platform for the distribution of our films and TV programs."

"BitTorrent is the ideal platform to publish high-quality content on the Internet. By combining Warner Bros.' popular video content with BitTorrent's proven delivery efficiency, consumers will have an unparalleled way to experience entertainment online," said Ashwin Navin, president and co-founder of BitTorrent.

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