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TV Sets Dip Into BitTorrent Stream

Embedded Code Allows for Playback of Legal, Illegal Video 11/18/2012 7:00 PM Eastern

BitTorrent, the notorious file-sharing application used by more than 150 million people worldwide, is tuning into TV.

Internet-connected TV sets from some 20 manufacturers will soon be able to stream video content — including both legal and illegal material — with the click of a remote, via embedded BitTorrent software. CEO Eric Klinker declined to identify Bit- Torrent’s TV partners.

Most of BitTorrent’s deals are for TV models that will launch in Europe and Asia as early as this holiday season, Klinker said. “You may not see them as much in the U.S.,” he said.

That’s because for many Internetconnected HDTVs marketed in the U.S., the manufacturers already have deals with streaming-video providers, according to Klinker. “We are competing with the Netflixes and Hulus for space on the television,” he said.

Klinker denied that consumer-electronics companies are wary of associating with BitTorrent because the file-sharing application is widely used to access pirated content. He noted that about 2 million titles of legal content are available in the BitTorrent universe, including movies, music and books.

Asked how many illegal files are available via BitTorrent, Klinker said: “We have no idea. It’s like asking Chrome [Google’s Web browser] how much pornography there is on the Internet.” His point was that liability for illegal activities rests with users, as is the case with Web browsers.

The San Francisco-based company generates revenue from advertising (through syndicated search with partners that include Microsoft Bing and Ask.com); a premium, ad-free version of BitTorrent; and licensing deals such as those with TV manufacturers.

BitTorrent clients once consumed as much as 40% of global Internet traffic, but the application’s share of peak downstream usage declined to 12% in 2012 as video-streaming services like Netflix have taken off, according to Sandvine.

Klinker claimed BitTorrent’s introduction of a new protocol starting in 2010 — designed to give priority to other applications — has reduced the amount of bandwidth the application’s users consume in aggregate.

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