BitTorrent has had ambitions to be a player in the content space for some time now. The company's BitTorrent Bundles currently offer a variety of movies and music — most of which are smaller, independent releases, but the company also works with high-profile studios and artists like Sony Pictures Classics, Universal, Madonna, and Thom Yorke, the latter of whom put out his most recent solo album on BitTorrent this past fall. And like any good digital content distribution company, BitTorrent is also getting into the practice of distributing original content — last summer, the company announced that it would launch an original sci-fi pilot called Children of the Machine for free, followed by seven more episodes if 250,000 users paid $9.95 for the whole season.
Now, BitTorrent has announced that it is changing up that distribution scheme: when Children of the Machine launches in "late 2015" (nearly a year after the original planned release this past December), it'll be free and ad-supported through BitTorrent Bundles. You'll still have the option to pay $9.95 for a premium version of the series, which will be ad-free and contain bonus features, but no money is required up front. "The 'platinum' version, the paid bundle will have a much bigger variety of content than the see-for-free version," says Marco Weber, the show's creator and CEO of Rapid Eye Studio. "But the entire show will be available for free."
BitTorrent is getting serious about having its own original, exclusive shows
BitTorrent also announced broader ambitious in the original content space — the company says it is entering a deeper partnership with Weber's Rapid Eye Studio to produce more BitTorrent Originals going forward. The company is serious enough about this new arm of its business that BitTorrent's chief content officer Matt Mason and his team are all moving down to LA from San Francisco to work alongside the Rapid Eye team to produce more shows.
Going forward, those BitTorrent Original programs (including Children of the Machine) will be available exclusively through BitTorrent Bundles for 30 to 60 days, after which they'll be available on other distribution platforms. As with other BitTorrent-distributed projects, BitTorrent will take a 10 percent cut from sales, the rest of which goes to the creators.
This major focus on creating content rather than distributing it seems odd at first glance for BitTorrent, but the trend of companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and more moving from simply being platforms to places with exclusive content means BitTorrent may have a chance to carve out its own niche here. "We're traditionally an engineering and technology company," says Mason, "but this partnership with Rapid Eye will help us become a more media-focused company."
'Children of the Machine' will hit BitTorrent this fall
Rather than broadly compete with bigger companies like Netflix, however, BitTorrent says that its original programming will be a bit more focused, at least to begin with. The company says in a press release that BitTorrent Originals will "focus on stories appealing to a young, creative, and influential group of 14- to 25-year-olds that make up the BitTorrent audience of 170 million monthly active users." As the first BitTorrent Original, it's safe to say that Children of the Machine will likely be a perfect example of the kind of content the company thinks will work with that audience, though it's hard to say just yet — we've only seen a tiny bit of content relating to the show thus far. That'll likely change before long, though — Children of the Machine is scheduled to start shooting this spring.