Matt Mason Bittorrent 2

SXSW blog: Distribute and disrupt with emerging platforms

Blogger and transmedia producer Caitlin Burns talks with BitTorrent's Matt Mason and discusses new services, like 2ndLine TV and Film Festival Fix, being showcased at the festival.
March 13, 2014

Caitlin Burns will be checking in throughout this week with innovations and insights from SXSW 2014. Tweet her with any news or hot tips: @Caitlin_Burns

Without a huge sponsor or distributor to work with, what does a producer have to do to get their work out there? For the community of media creators looking for opportunities to get their work seen – and get paid for it – there are new distribution platforms here at SXSW circulating through the film, interactive and transmedia meet-ups. And they’re looking for new content and reaching out to the cinephile community.

Film Festival Fix is one worth noting. It’s a curation platform that aggregates news, information, ticket sales and actual on-demand films from festivals around North America. This is a useful tool for anyone navigating the film festival circuit or trying to catch up on the hundreds of screenings in any given year.

Another interesting service is 2ndLine TV, which allows a filmmaker or artist to organize their own real-time, pay-per-view screening event to stream online. They have a suite of tools for organizing as well as the technical backbone to support HD streaming. Having seen initial success in beta with concerts and independent filmmakers in San Francisco, they’re reaching out to creators who want to see a better financial return on their investments than if they were to simply post to YouTube. By selling tickets to your own streaming event you see a higher rate of return than going through the intermediaries of in-theatre distribution, even if you rent an auditorium.

While not every on-demand streaming channel I saw on offer at SXSW was a gem, it’s clear that there’s enough going on in the space to qualify it as a major emerging trend in the media space.

Perhaps the most established alternative distribution channel that’s reaching out to artists is BitTorrent. The peer-to-peer protocol made some big shifts in the past few years. The first big shift was changing its basic codec to support streaming media as opposed to just file transfer, and releasing a few products: BitTorrent Sync and BitTorrent Bundles to secure, protect and monetize intellectual properties on the platform. 

“The promise of the Internet was to democratize things, and it hasn’t.”

BitTorrent Bundles are like storefronts, and through partnerships with Madonna, Vice, Moby and Cinedigm have shown that BitTorrent’s millions-strong user base is a huge, relatively untapped market for quality, paid content.

Bundles are customizable — content can be downloaded for free or sit behind locked paywalls, marketing incentives, coupons for live show tickets or merchandise. Recently, Drafthouse Films, the U.S. distributor of Oscar-nominated doc The Act of Killing made the movie available for free on the platform as a way to promote and reach bigger audiences.

With over two million pieces of licensed content, BitTorrent may seem like a competitor to other streaming services, but because of its model as a service provider rather than a gatekeeper, it’s likely to develop an edge with creators.I caught up with BitTorrent VP of marketing, Matt Mason, at their SXSW music event.

“The promise of the Internet was to democratize things, and it hasn’t. If you’re Led Zeppelin and have the funds to build a huge proprietary portal to stream your work, you’ll be able to. But as a smaller artist, it’s much more difficult to build your footprint,” he says. “With BitTorrent Bundles, you don’t have to be a major player to reach your audience. If someone finds a bundle they can open it, get a few free tracks [or a video preview] click the link and go to your secure site to buy the album [or the film].”

Matt wrote the book The Pirate’s Dilemma and has been an active advocate for the rights of artists, not just musicians in the digital space, before becoming BitTorrent’s ambassador to the creative world. “We don’t need to be the big guy. What we care about is – is this useful for artists? If it is, that’s a win for us.”

Bundles are simple to create, having been moved from a closed beta to an open service that can be found immediately within the BitTorrent desktop client or at They can be streamed or embedded and host any file type and size one can create.

Caitlin Burns is a New York-based transmedia producer whose work includes Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney Fairies, and Tron Legacy for Disney, James Cameron’s Avatar for Fox, Halo for Microsoft, Happiness Factory for The Coca-Cola Company, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon and Transformers for Hasbro. She has also worked with Sony, Showtime, Pepperidge Farm, Scholastic, Tribeca New Media Fund, FEMSA, Wieden+Kennedy, Reebok and Stratasys.

She’ll be checking in throughout this week with new innovations and insights from SXSW2014.  Check out her previous posts:

Tools and tech that can help content creators

Interactive is not a genre, it’s an ingredient

Who will take the fest by storm this year?


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