Tape It Off The Internet

This does seem to be real, if it is a prank it is a pretty extensive one. What am I talking about? Well, apparently a couple of coders were joking around one day and came up with a name for a website, "Tape It Off the Internet." From what I can find out so far, they liked the idea so much that they are actually not only building a business model around it but a full blown website.

What is this all about? Well, BitTorrent. What's BitTorrent? It is a peer-to-peer file sharing network protocol. Basically, person A has a file on their computer. He wants to share this file, let's say it is a weekly video program about Whatcha-Ma-Things. He runs a website for Whatcha-Ma-Thing aficionados called, Whatchamathing.com. His video show (Internet TV) is about 30 minutes long making the files pretty big. Having everyone come to his site to download the files requires a great deal of bandwidth and a lot of servers (i.e. boat loads of cash). He isn't a rich man, so he needs a distribution system. BitTorrent is that system. He uploads a small file to his website and his viewers use that file to tell their BitTorrent Client where the file is located. As each one starts to download the video, their BitTorrent client tells other viewers BitTorrent client's that they have all or some of the video file. So the third person down can pull the file down using the combined resources of three locations where the file resides. If it is a popular file and each person continues to "seed" the file, download time is increased and the pressure on our creator's servers and bandwidth is reduced remarkably. That's the basics of any peer-to-peer file sharing system, Bittorent is the most popular. (Here endith the lesson).

Where was I... Oh, yes, our two programmers. They are building a website that will act as a kind of aggregator of BitTorrent files of TV shows. While I don't think they are really the Tivo of the internet, they will be making it easy to locate your TV shows and download them to watch. The site will also be a social networking site, with TV Shows as the center piece. That means that if someone you know really likes WestWing, you can look to see what other programs that person watches.

This all sounds really cool. It's rather innovative. It's a head of its time. That last one is the "gotcha." While Bittorrent isn't illegal, yet, sharing copyrighted materials with 10,000 of your closest "friends" is illegal; and if you copied a DVD to do it, then you have broken the DMCA and you are a doing something really illegal. The shows may be broadcast over the public air waves, but the shows themselves don't belong to the public, just the air waves. Many of the shows that are popular downloads through the current Bittorrent distribution system are cable shows and Hollywood hits. In other words, entertainment you have to pay to watch.

So while this system is really cool and I think it could be a huge boon to TV shows, especially those on lesser networks without huge marketing budgets, it is doomed to get shutdown; if it ever gets off of the ground. The primary problem comes down to money. The networks make money off of advertising. The local affiliates also make money off of advertising. So even if the networks agree to broadcast TV shows on the internet in some fashion, the local affiliates will complain very loudly. As they have with done with Lost and Desperate Housewives being available on iTunes. If the quality of the offered shows rivals broadcast TV, or possibly is as good as HDTV then you won't be able to hear the program over the screams of lost revenue.

Ahead of its time? Yep, Titoti.com is most assuredly ahead of its time and not ready for prime time. Content makers are going to have to face the internet devil and find a way for consumers to legally consume content over the internet and at the same allow the content makers to make money doing so; possibly more money. That means a tracking system, vis-i-vie Nielson, has to be invented and new forms of advertising or content payment.

I hope the day gets here soon, because I will be on the bandwagon. Mobile content is here to stay, it's only a matter of time before someone figures out how and Hollywood gets out of the way of innovation.