Norwegian broadcaster NRK embraces P2P, sets up own torrent tracker

As BitTorrent tracker the Pirate Bay awaits its fate across the border in Sweden, Norway’s NRK public broadcaster is embracing peer-to-peer like only Scandinavians know how – it’s beginning to give away its TV shows as torrents. It’s a radically different strategy – broadcasters usually regard P2P file sharing as a problem.

NRK ran a limited test of the idea in 2008; now it says the practice was “very successful” and is setting up its own torrent tracker, using the same software that powers Pirate Bay, to distribute more, high-quality, full-length shows more regularly.

Not only will NRK save on distribution costs (with P2P, it’s the recipients who transfer the files), it will also attract more viewers from the community of torrent fans and – as an interesting byproduct – more international viewers for its publicly-funded programming. Viewers have already begun writing “fansubs” – homebrew English subtitles – for the shows.

Project manager Erik Solheim: “Experience from our early tests show that if we’re the best provider of our own content we also gain control of it.” And NRK should even be able to overcome cross-border rights issues with producers: “It seems like it should be possible to find a solution where NRK gets the rights it needs and the rights holders get the compensation they want.” NRK is endorsing the Miro player.

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