Doctor Who is now on BitTorrent—and it’s totally legal

A show from TV’s past is experimenting with distribution models of the future.
A show from TV’s past is experimenting with distribution models of the future.
Image: Reuters/Eddie Mulholland
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Rejoice nerds, and fans of British television! BBC, the UK state broadcaster, is selecting 10 episodes of the cult sci-fi series Doctor Who and making them available on BitTorrent.

That’s BitTorrent Inc., as in the company backed by Accel Partners and other venture capital firms, not the broader peer-to-peer file sharing protocol that breaks large files into small pieces shared out across a huge network of computers (used to illicitly share lots of high-profile content, including, presumably, Doctor Who shows).

The select episodes, all from the last decade, will be available for $12 through Bit Torrent Bundle, the product launched by the company last year, which has been used, with great success, by Thom Yorke and others, to distribute content to fans.

The promotion is timed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the return of Doctor Who to TV screens after a 16-year hiatus. The show has been around since 1963. BBC Worldwide’s director of drama, Julia Kenyon, said in an emailed statement:

This innovative deal with BitTorrent allows us to directly reach a huge number of consumers and engage with fans on a global and fast-growing digital platform. Music content has seen tremendous success through BitTorrent Bundle, and this deal is the first of its kind for British TV content.

Piracy has been a problem for the program, most notably in Australia—that bastion of content piracy—mainly due to delays in when the episodes were aired. But that isn’t really the issue here. It’s more about making a large amount of content available to a global audience in relatively easy fashion.

It also is another coup for BitTorrent, which has been striving for legitimacy for some time now, and is beginning to be embraced by the creative community.