Goodbye bandwith bills? BitTorrent is testing live streaming

Peer to peer streaming being tested by BitTorrent, and promises to make live streaming easier and cheaper

By James Cridland
Posted 15 February 2016, 9.30am gmt

Mention BitTorrent to anyone, and they'll probably think of illegal movie filesharing and naughtiness. Yet, the technology behind BitTorrent is capable of many legal things: from sharing large files (typically new Linux installations) to a decentralised alternative to Dropbox.

BitTorrent is now testing live streaming, with a broadcast partner called OTT News. OTT - "On The Trail and Over The Top" - broadcasts live video and pre-produced segments covering the extreme dullness that is the US presidential election.

BitTorrent Live offers peer-to-peer video streaming. The company says it removes the need for an expensive CDN or buying loads of bandwidth. For many internet broadcasters, bandwidth costs are a significant barrier to growth - something BitTorrent itself calls The Goldilocks Paradox - buy too much bandwidth and you're wasting money; buy too little and your stream falls over.

Announced at the Mobile World Congress last March, BitTorrent Live is now testing with a few broadcast partners, with an aim to launch a product later in the year. You can download an app and watch yourself. I did, and was treated to decent quality video that only rebuffered once, and contained dull adverts from the US presidential candidates.

Peer-to-peer streaming is nothing new; Virgin Radio was experimenting with it back in the mid-2000s. The reason why it failed then was due to a reluctance by consumers to install new software on their computer just to listen to the one or two radio stations that used it. However, with an app-based consumption pattern, it's now more feasible to try new technology like this.

Correctly-configured HLS HTTP streaming, incidentally, can be cached and proxied, and the individual chunked files served on a relatively simple CDN with no pre-provisioning; so it's unclear quite what the benefits are for broadcasters; but interesting to see new thoughts going into streaming technology once more.

There's more information on the BitTorrent blog.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.


5 years, 9 months ago

James, I think bittorrent would work out cheaper than a CDN for video, especially for smaller audiences that are geographically diverse.

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