BitTorrent Live carries the legacy of ivi.tv

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BitTorrent logoThis week at INTX (formerly The Cable Show), BitTorrent announced a new package of live streaming video. Once it launches, BitTorrent Live will include over a dozen linear channels, including Newsmax, ONE World Sports, and the Pursuit Channel. It will all be based on BitTorrent’s proprietary peer-to-peer (P2P) streaming protocol.

BitTorrent’s blog post said that this is just the beginning. Future channels will include subscription based, ad supported, and Pay Per View premium tiers. In the words of Erik Schwartz, vice president of media at BitTorrent, “What we’re launching … is functionally a virtual MVPD.”

This announcement has attracted considerable industry news coverage, but I haven’t seen anyone else make the connection between BitTorrent Live and the true pioneer of P2P online TV, ivi. It’s been over five years since ivi.tv was fatally wounded by a federal court decision against it. Before then, ivi carried dozens of broadcast channels, distributed mostly P2P. They had a few “seeding” servers with the broadcast signal, then most subscribers served to both send and receive pieces of each show. The result was a lag time of a few minutes, noticeable only if there was a live source for comparison or if the viewer expected shows to change at exactly the top of the hour. BitTorrent Live claims that its latency will be less than 10 seconds, which would be roughly equivalent to satellite TV’s delay. I’m very curious to see what its lag time will be in practice compared with a non-P2P service such as Sling International.

All of this assumes that BitTorrent Live will launch, and that it will perform as advertised. If so, this P2P special sauce could allow networks to reach the huge simultaneous audiences that can be problematic for one-way streaming services. I’ve been saying this a lot, but maybe this could be the next big thing?

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