Viva BitTorrent!!!

NBC’s withdrawal from iTunes leaves millions without a legitimate way to purchase and watch NBC content. Is this the push that brings easy-to-use ‘piracy’ to the masses?

With Apple’s falling out with NBC in the headlines, it’s a good opportunity to examine the state of online TV downloads. The end result of the dispute between the companies is that NBC’s shows, which currently count for approximately one third of iTunes’ TV show sales will no longer be available for sale at Apple’s iTunes store. Customers wishing to purchase NBC’s shows will now need to go through Amazon’s Unbox service. While Unbox supports users of Windows and TiVo, Mac users, as well as those millions of iPod users are left out in the cold. Linux geeks, and those customers who have purchased divx/avi capable portable music players are also excluded, but this small subset of the market were equally ignored by Apple.

The Apple/NBC dispute, of course, only affects US based consumers. Foreigners, due to the lengthy delay between a show airing in the US in markets abroad, have already been driven to illegal file sharing. In Australia, where the broadcast of US shows is typically delayed between 22-30 months, many viewers have given up on waiting for their favorite shows to appear on the tube, and have instead turned to BitTorrent. According to a report published in 2006, “Australians are responsible for 15.6 percent of all online TV piracy, bested only by Britain, which accounts for 38.4 percent. The US lags behind in third position at 7.3 percent.”

The legitimate and legal online media stores can’t compete with file sharing on price or portability. Besides, most stores all wrap their media in restrictive Digitial Rights Management (DRM), thus, can’t compete on freedom, flexibility or the ability to transfer purchased media to other devices.

“Give and you shall receive” = a la BitTorrent.