P2P Distribution Case Studies

Now that you have familiarized yourself with the P2P (define) landscape and understand the consumer motivations behind downloading content through P2P networks, it’s time to review a couple case studies involving rare instances of content owners utilizing the channel for distribution

CBC’s Next Great Strategy

In April, the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) announced that it would be the first North American broadcaster to freely distribute one of its programs, “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister,” in totality via BitTorrent without ad support. Even more surprising is that the CBC decided to release this content DRM (define) free, in the same manner as pirated content. This essentially means that users would be able to download, consume, and share CBC video content freely without restriction.

For example, a user downloads the show to a home PC, copying the content to a personal media player (PMP) to watch on the subway commute to work and sharing it with coworkers by dropping the file into a shared folder on a local network. The initial download from BitTorrent would be counted, but every transfer and view beyond that wouldn’t be tracked.

The results so far? On Mininova (one of the most popular international BitTorrent search engines and directories on the Internet) alone, the show has been downloaded more than 11,000 times in the past 50 days; as I type, there are approximately 50 users worldwide actively downloading or sharing the file. The distribution cost to CBC? Close to zero to reach more than 11,000 active downloaders and potentially thousands of additional viewers through organic sharing. The CBC also garnered the goodwill of the P2P audience, earning such praise as “Wow, I think the CBC is the first national network to ‘get it’, and get it right” on the notoriously tough Mininova comment boards.

It can be argued that the publicly funded CBC has a lot less to lose than the average profit-driven network. Still, the decision to publicly distribute a non-DRM piece of licensed content through a P2P channel signals a fundamental shift in distribution strategy that the entire industry should take note of. The CBC, with a legislative mandate of “making its programming accessible throughout Canada by the most appropriate means,” recognized the new media behavior of its audience and allowed it to dictate distribution. This is exactly counter to the standard industry model of brands and content owners prescribing the oftentimes arcane and consumer-unfriendly terms and conditions of content sharing. Time will tell if U.S. networks will follow CBC’s lead.

Jun Group’s Free Throw

Also in April, a certain NBA superstar sponsored by a certain global shoe manufacturer was featured in a viral video, promoting the release of a new sneaker by appearing to jump over a speeding car. The viral video spread quickly, with multiple users uploading the video to YouTube and other video-sharing sites on the same day within the same narrow timeframe; it seemed as if everyone uploading thought he was the first to have viewed the video and wanted to be the first to share it with the world. The immediate results were, by my estimate, over 1 million aggregate views in the first five days of release.

The groundswell of attention around the video quickly resulted in TV mentions (most notably during an NBA TNT halftime show) and a series of remixes and parodies. It was a viral marketer’s dream come true. The video’s rapid dissemination was no coincidence. It was in large part the result of efforts by the Jun Group, a firm that specializes in the distribution of viral video content via P2P channels.

The Jun Group’s proprietary technology allows advertisers to organically seed their viral videos on popular P2P networks such as Lime Wire, eDonkey, and Grokster. Marketers are allowed to identify or define appropriate search verticals for their content, and the Jun Group’s technology pushes this supported content to the top of related user search results. Because of the scale that aggregate P2P networks offer (we’re talking millions of downloads per campaign), the Jun Group is able to offer this service on a pay-for-performance model. That’s right, as a marketer you only pay for videos that are actually downloaded by P2P users. The Jun Group’s tracking technology, embedded in the distributed viral videos, allows for reporting metrics such as open rate, complete plays, and average view-through percentage. This is all done without DRM, so the file’s portability is retained. Everything the Jun Group does is 100 percent legal. The service has already been used with great success by such forward-thinking clients as HBO, Unilever, Sprint, Coca-Cola, and Glacéau.

If this sounds too good to be true, know that the Jun Group’s Achilles’ heel is the inability to apply its technology to BitTorrent, although the company is currently working on this. I spoke with Jun Group CEO Bill Common and asked him about the possibility of user backlash because of the organic nature of his company’s seeding tactics. He said there had been no backlash thus far, even mentioning that the technology was received with positive reviews at the tech-geek site Slashdot. When asked about why more marketers had not yet heard of the Jun Group, he responded, “We haven’t had the time to market ourselves.”

Next time, how a high-profile artist is revolutionizing the music industry model with online video.

Join us for ClickZ Specifics: Online Video Advertising on July 22, at Millennium Broadway in New York City.

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