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Media The Almighty Buck

Norwegian Broadcaster Evaluates BitTorrent Distribution Costs 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the leeches-welcome dept.
FrostPaw writes "An experiment was conducted recently by Norwegian broadcasting company NRK involving the release of the series 'Nordkalotten 365' (a wildlife program) in a DRM free format using BitTorrent. One of the broadcasters has posted the approximate figures for the overall distribution costs, and discussed his reasons for doing so. Their estimated cost for using Amazon S3 to offer the files through HTTP/FTP/etc. come to approximately 41,000 NOK (about $8,000 US). However, when using the Amazon servers as the originating seed and utilizing BitTorrent, their total cost for distribution of the entire project, thanks to generous seeds, would amount to approximately 1,700 NOK. The post with the original figures is available only in Norwegian.
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Norwegian Broadcaster Evaluates BitTorrent Distribution Costs

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  • At last! (Score:5, Funny)

    by nih (411096) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:20AM (#22685820)
    the definitive documentary about the Møøse!
  • This Just In: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsmith-mac (639075) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:25AM (#22685828)

    Making other people do your work for free makes your own costs cheaper. Film at 11.

    In other words, why is this news? It's something that has been obvious about BitTorrent since day 1: if you can get/make your users use their own upload bandwidth, you won't need as much of your own, and in a cost model that means your costs are lower. Did this really require a study?

    • Re:This Just In: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yakumo.unr (833476) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:31AM (#22685850) Homepage
      It's news because a lot of marketers need it spelled out for them, with big juicy numbers with currency symbols attached, once they start to really realize the financial positives of using the most efficient distribution systems, they might stop trying to shut down just that, a highly efficient distribution system. it's not the personification of piracy.
      • Re:This Just In: (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @07:58AM (#22686060) Homepage
        I'm surprised this hasn't already taken off for TV. Here's why:

        1. Right now networks can only own one station per market. With HD they can in theory broadcast multiple streams on it, but only a few. With online distribution they could put out as much content as they would like.

        2. Right now anybody can record and redistribute the off-the-air content. So, DRM is trying to lock up the front door when the back door is already wide open.

        3. Right now due to inefficient distribution schemes shows only run in a local market, creating a huge demand for online content. Typically this content lacks commercials, and is ignored when calculating ratings even if it did.

        4. If a TV station made it EASY to download their shows with full commercials they'd take over the market overnight. The big networks could collaborate to make it easy to watch their shows just like watching TV. Who would mess around with nzb files and all that when you could just fire up your online "Tivo" and it has already downloaded everything you're interested in. The polished experience would give them 99% of the market all the time.

        5. Sure, in theory somebody could find some way to redistribute their content and strip out all the commercials, but the scale of this task except for a few shows would be hard to match with the level of polish that the networks could deliver. They would still own copyright so they would only need to deal with distributed bands of unpaid volunteers redistributing their work - if anybody tried to organize they could be dealt with in court. The court cases would be stronger since the networks could convine local governments that they are actually genuinely trying to get their content to everyone (right now some countries turn a blind eye to copyright violation since it enables their consumers to get access to TV they wouldn't ever see otherwise).

        It seems like the TV execs are missing a huge opportunity that they could just own without issue if they just stepped out and took advantage of it.
        • by springbox (853816)
          Of course, you can already watch TV on the internet as provided by the large networks. It's known as Hulu, and you can watch stuff for free (with some commercials) at places like this [fancast.com]. It's not as revolutionary as being able to download via bittorrent, but it's a step in the right direction. Adult Swim does their own thing though. They put new videos of shows on their web site every friday.
          • by cashman73 (855518)
            You don't have to go to Fancast, although they do have a pretty good selection. But most of the current content on television is already put out the day after it "airs" by all of the big four networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox). Not all the shows are online yet, but a good number of the popular ones are. And if they aren't, there's always the Pirate Bay, or TVU Networks,...

            The big problem with Fancast right now is that you can't watch the content there at full screen size, you have to watch it in your browser.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by mecenday (1080691)
          5. I would predict "adblock for media players" within a week. It wouldn't be that huge of a task to create big lists of where the commercials sit on specific shows, throw them up on a server and automate the process of dowloading them. Then the media player just skips past those two minutes. No quality loss -- no large scale (re)distribution needed.

          It would only take one diehard fan record the time signatures for an entire series.. And only one good hacker to open up fastforward across an entire DRM scheme.
          • by Rich0 (548339)
            I don't think that would happen on a grand scale. Set-top boxes won't have that feature, and any that do have it will be sued into oblivion and excluded from distribution channels like the local walmart.

            You could do something like this today with DVRs, and yet it doesn't happen - for precisely these reasons.

            The TV execs don't need to keep EVERYBODY from skipping ads. If they get 95% of the public to watch the ads (or even 50%) they can make a fortune. Most people won't bother setting up all kinds of 3rd
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smchris (464899)
          "It seems like the TV execs are missing a huge opportunity that they could just own without issue if they just stepped out and took advantage of it."

          Because media and corporate people are morons? I've wondered for nearly a decade why even regular stream is considered a poor cousin and a toy. If I'm listening to a radio station in Paris I might not understand every word, but I'll pick out "Coca-Cola". There should be some fund of Coca-Cola International that the station is collecting from to support that
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        Bittorrent is not efficient - far from it. What this shows is that if you push your costs onto the end users (in the form of increased ISP bills to cover the bandwidth used by the torrenters) then you can save money on your own bottom line.

        An evaluation of the true costs would be interesting, but probably nearly impossible to calculate as it's too distributed.
        • Re:This Just In: (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Wildclaw (15718) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:00AM (#22686246)
          Bittorrent is indeed efficent as it scales far better than http or ftp. A better example than that in the article would be the following article that was recently posted on torrentfreak.

          http://torrentfreak.com/university-uses-utorrent-080306 [torrentfreak.com]Dutch University Uses BitTorrent to Update Workstations

          The worst case scenario is when every single users deems uploading to be too costly for their own good and therefore caps it to nothing. In that specific case, bittorrent basically have the same efficency as http or ftp, needing the same amount of dedicated servers and bandwidth. There would be a slight efficency loss due to protocol overhead, but that is minor when dealing with large files.

          In most cases however, the upload bandwidth of a peer will be less expensive than that of a dedicated seeder for the simple fact that the peer is idle otherwise, while the dedicated seeder is working at full capacity.

          Also, spreading out the distribution costs on the users lessens/removes the need to actually have to charge the users for that same distribution. Even if the users have to pay some/most of that money to the ISP instead, the simple fact is that removing the need for micro transactions is a huge benefit in itself.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jc42 (318812)

            Bittorrent is not efficient - far from it. What this shows is that if you push your costs onto the end users (in the form of increased ISP bills to cover the bandwidth used by the torrenters) then you can save money on your own bottom line.

            Bittorrent is indeed efficent as it scales far better than http or ftp.

            People do seem to throw around words like "efficient" without saying how they're actually measuring it.

            One meaning of "efficient" could be the amount of bandwidth, in which case you want to measure t

        • by kesuki (321456)
          sir, how expensive do you think bandwidth is? if bittorrent user A pays $50 a month for 'high speed cable internet' (after promotional fees end) and is downloading 30 GB a month, and uploading about the same GB/month... is the cable company taking a loss? no i don't thinks so.

          why? well I'll cite an article, yes a bit old, but here is my point, a site where 13 million people download the same 15 MB video... (this is just the most popular my friend!) and Forbes estimates their bandwidth cost at $1 million do
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by easyTree (1042254)

        ... once they start to really realize the financial positives of using the most efficient distribution systems, they might stop trying to shut down just that...
        ..and instead concentrate their efforts on ruining -strike- regulating it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Cybah (444190)
        P2P file distribution is not efficient. It might appear to be cost efficient from the content producer/distributor's perspective because they're paying less money for bandwidth and server equipment. Yes, there are savings in server and hosting expenses since client/server requires a much larger centralised infrastructure. However, P2P moves the bandwidth costs onto the consumers and their ISPs. Furthermore, P2P is bandwidth inefficient due to its overheads.

        Given its inefficiency, we're still seeing huge inv
    • Translation (Score:3, Informative)

      Quick, literal translation of the Norwegian story for all who are interested:



      Use of BitTorrent - numbers and costs

      We can conclude that our experiment with BitTorrent has been a success. Most importantly, according to the comments from our users, this is something you really like. We have read more than 500 comments, and it's the first time we have seen an event with this much publicity get this much positive feedback. We have tried a lot of crazy things on the net: we've had stories on both Digg, Sl
    • by kesuki (321456)
      "In other words, why is this news?"

      To put it simply, the cost savings is astronomical, while 'hosting' companies have in the past 'played down' the 'cost savings of bittorrent' saying that with dial-up users etc, that a company would only save 50% of the cost. but the fact that a television broadcaster was able to save a DRASTIC amount of money (41,000 vs 2,000!!!) that's 1/20th the original cost! way better than 50% savings that have been bandied about by people expecting bt to not be a significant savin
  • Government owned (Score:5, Informative)

    by Armakuni (1091299) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:28AM (#22685834) Homepage
    It should be mentioned that NRK is owned by the Norwegian government, and that the programmes are not advertisement sponsored.
  • BBC iPlayer (Score:4, Informative)

    by dunstan (97493) <dvavasour.iee@org> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:48AM (#22685884) Homepage
    The BBC iPlayer doesn't use BitTorrent, but it does use a P2P technology for distributing the DRM encumbered download versions of their programmes. The whole thing wouldn't scale without it.

    If you're not putting DRM on, then vanilla BT seems a perfect and ready-made medium. The Beeb, however, sell their programmes around the world, so won't knowingly let unencumbered versions out into the wild.

    • by LingNoi (1066278)
      I'm sure that there must be something in the iPlayer to track you so that when the TV licensing people around they know you're a violater. I can't prove it though.
      • Unlikely. If the film studios & record companies can't get hold of a subscriber's details without a court order then what chance does the BBC have.
      • You don't need a TV license to watch things on the iPlayer. The rules for needing a TV license are quite clear with respect to online content - you only need one if you are watching content that is streamed at the same time as it is broadcast. Programs do not appear on iPlayer until an hour or two until after they have been broadcast, and so this is never an issue (you do, however, need one if you watch the live sports streams from the BBC, which caught out a lot of businesses during Wimbledon last year).
      • by rucs_hack (784150)
        Oh, I wasn't aware of the need for a tv licence to view iPlayer content.

        Luckily there is one for the house I'm in. Guess I better get a license when I move out. Seems daft to do so, since I haven't owned a tv for years, but there we are.
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      It scales just fine - that's why the flash version is the most popular way of viewing iplayer. Added to that that the P2P is kontiki, which is a horrid piece of crap that eats bandwidth even when you're not using the iplayer (and with many users on 1gb/month caps that has already led to some enormous bandwidth bills)... people with sense don't install the app.

  • Why... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kyriosdelis (1100427)
    ...should they use the Amazon servers at all, if they are planning to utilise BitTorrent? Don't they have at least a moderate connection to act as a seeder themselves?
    • Re:Why... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ilgaz (86384) * on Saturday March 08, 2008 @07:27AM (#22685974) Homepage
      Amazon S3 has a unique feature. Lets say you got hugefile.mov to serve. User can click the .mov file directly to download via ordinary http/ftp or you simply add ?torrent to the URL and it creates/enables a torrent and start tracking it.

  • Well duh!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tim Ward (514198) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @07:09AM (#22685922) Homepage
    If you reduce the audience for your product then it's not surprising if your distribution costs go down!

    Obviously yer average slashweenie has heard of BitTorrent, and even I would probably mange to be able to find it and install it and make it work if I really wanted to ... but I wouldn't bother with all that hassle just to watch a telly programme, so that's one fewer viewer.

    And how many people's grandmas:

    (1) can cope perfectly well with watching a telly programme on a web page in the normal way

    (2) wouldn't have the remotest clue what you were on about if you started wittering about BitTorrent?
    • Re:Well duh!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by ozamosi (615254) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @07:43AM (#22686020) Homepage
      That's an interface problem - not a technical problem.

      You could probably write a bittorrent client as a flash applet. You press the big, shiny download button that covers half of your screen, and the flash applet connects to peers and starts to download, all with a pretty progress bar. Even my grandfather could figure that out (one of my grandmas can't even use a mouse, the other is paranoid and believes that "They" are spying on her if she use a computer, so she got rid of it).

      Or, you could let people download an exe file, that when clicked will automatically launch a simple bittorrent client that automatically opens the torrent file for Nordkalotten 365 and starts to download.

      They have thousands of extra dollars that they no longer need to pay Amazon, that they could now throw at the problem. I'm sure they can figure something out.
      • Re:Well duh!! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Wildclaw (15718) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @08:17AM (#22686096)
        Point in case, http://www.bitlet.org/ [bitlet.org]Bitlet, the bittorrent java applet

        And for those who claim that bitlet is bad because the user is less likely to seed back as much as they take. Having someone not seed back is mostly a problem when dealing with torrents where there aren't any dedicated seeders, in which case torrents eventually will go dead.

        For torrents with dedicated seeding like the one mentioned above, that simply isn't a problem. Sure, having peers provide as much as they take is advantageous, but it simply is not vital in that kind of environment. Tit for tat provides enough of an incentive for the peer to atleast provide bandwidth while downloading.
        • You could have the dedicated servers provide 100kB/sec to each user, with the speed raised by people seeding back.

          In the case of watching tv, you could have people seed while they're watching it (after downloading it).

          Though the real solution to mass-distribution would use multicast to dramatically lower the amount of data transmitted.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        No it's a technical problem.

        If you don't forward ports to your machine then BT runs like ass - capping out at 5k/s or less. The average user doesn't know what a port *is* let alone how to forward one.

        I absolutely refuse to forward ports to BT for security reasons* (and anyway which one of the 20-odd machines here would I forward to?) so even though I know what BT is I can't use it, because the trackers either refuse to connect completely or refuse to serve data.

        * There are only 2 machines on this network t
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ozamosi (615254)
          Trackers only use HTTP. If you can browse the web, you can connect to the tracker. I'm sure some of those 1337, moronic private trackers refuse to connect you, but we're talking about real, non-crippled bittorrent here. The tracker is not a problem.

          If you allow outgoing connections, you can connect to other clients. If you can connect, you can transfer. At any speed. Transfer speeds from other clients is not a problem.

          The problem you're describing is a result of the fact that if there's a seed somewhere tha
          • by evilviper (135110)

            If you allow outgoing connections, you can connect to other clients. If you can connect, you can transfer. At any speed. Transfer speeds from other clients is not a problem.

            TRANSFER SPEED FROM OTHER CLIENTS IS A PROBLEM, in fact.

            If you are not sharing (requires open ports for incoming connections) other peers will intentionally throttle you down to almost no bandwidth, as long as there are other peers requesting the same, and sharing, unlike you.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Wildclaw (15718)
          You set up a network that work quite but not exactly like the internet and then complain when an application actually use a part of the internet that the network setup doesn't support. Your complaint is no more valid than me complaining that some websites don't work because I only allow outgoing http traffic with a destination port 80.

          If you don't want to deal with port forwarding, you should either not expect your users to have full access to the internet or you should avoid using NAT in the first place.

          Fi
        • Sorry, but there's not 5kb/s cap due to incoming ports being blocked... It's just the swarm that sucks.
        • by Crizp (216129)
          I thought most home routers these days had uPnP enabled by default, and that most torrent apps support that (or other firewall piercing methods)?
      • by haeger (85819)
        ...the other is paranoid and believes that "They" are spying on her if she use a computer, so she got rid of it.

        Your grandmother is more tech savvy than most then? "They" are spying. "They" are compiling a profile of you through data mining. "They" know more about you than you'd like them to.
        Hooray for your grandmother. She "gets it".

        .haeger

      • by Clomer (644284)
        This is actually how World of Warcraft distributes its patches. When you fire up the WoW launcher, if there is a new version out then it downloads a small (less than a MB) .exe file that is a limited use bittorrent client that downloads the patch. This client is UPnP enabled, so as long as UPnP is enabled on the router (which is enabled by default on most routers, including mine), it will be able to take full advantage of the bittorrent system.

        I'm no stranger to forwarding ports. I've done it for vario
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by CyberK (1191465)
      Which is why the good people at NRK went to great lengths to explain how BitTorrent works, why it isn't illegal and how you can use it. But in this particular case we are still talking about a sandbox experiment. (Notice the name, NRK Beta.) If NRK were to base a major distribution channel on BitTorrent, you can be sure they would package it in some user friendly way. At any rate they still have traditional web TV in lower quality. (Though they have another experiment running in cooperation with a engineer
      • by IdleTime (561841)
        I think this is a great thing too. I live in Florida and Nett-TV doesn't cut it, the delays over the Atlantic makes it too slow and I have basically given up on it. Getting access to the shows in bittorrent format and with full TV quality is great for us expats. It allows us to keep up from time to time. Esp sport would be great, the sport shown on TV here in the US is not very Norwegian friendly :-)
  • "If other people are generous enough to give you storage and bandwidth, and you utilize their generosity, then you can save money by using less of your own."

    Remarkable!

    Next week, a story about uploading video to youtube...

  • how nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nguy (1207026) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @07:30AM (#22685994)
    If everybody does this, home Internet connections need to be upgraded or we're going to get volume pricing again. Either way, end users are going to pay for this.
    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      Overall costs aren't reduced (in fact they're increased - home users pay far more per gb than a large business user does). They're pushed into the users, who think that they have 'free' unlimited bandwidth - then bitch when their ISP increases prices/introduces capping/blocks torrents completely.

      Unfortunately the majority don't understand this and will fall for it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tantrum (261762)
        well, you might be right about some crappy isps have download limits and or portblockers. However this casestudy is from Norway where NONE of the isps have any of that.

        If you're already paying fully for your bandwidth the extra load on your network is already paid for and should be considered sunk cost.

        In words you might understand: "The more I download/share, the cheaper my bandwidth becomes"
      • Even if home users were paying the same amount then it would cost more because Bittorrent has a lot more overhead than HTTP. Since theprotocol is very stupid and doesn't take routing into account, the total load on the backbones is also likely to increase.
        • by Wildclaw (15718)

          Bittorrent has a lot more overhead than HTTP

          I keep hearing this a lot. How much overhead? A couple of percentage maybe. That isn't a lot. And the overhead can be reduced by simply lowering the amount of connections you make.

          Since theprotocol is very stupid and doesn't take routing into account, the total load on the backbones is also likely to increase.

          Umm, the protocol does indeed take routing into account, although indirectly.

          It downloads and trades pieces with the peers and seeds that it can get the most out of. And guess which peers that is most likely to be. Of course those near the user himself. And if it isn't, that means that the backbone isn't really overloaded, so it

      • by Wildclaw (15718)

        Overall costs aren't reduced (in fact they're increased - home users pay far more per gb than a large business user does).

        Actually, I pay my monthly fee even if I don't use it, so my current cost per gb is 0. I do pay for upload/download bandwidth, but that I need in any case.

        Server bandwidth and cpu have a higher load than the home user computers, meaning that distributing the load to those home users makes efficent use of infrastructure that is already in place.

        Unless of course, there isn't infrastructure in place, like in the US.

        then bitch when their ISP increases prices/introduces capping/blocks torrents completely.

        I bitch when ISPs cap/block torrents because they single out torrents. If they wan't to cap, c

    • by Kjella (173770)
      As if they don't already do that. Norway has one of the most US-centric broadcast schedules in Europe and we're always lagging significantly behind the US. I'd estimate that over the last 3 years I've uploaded somewhere around 500-1000GB, which averages out to about 20GB/month. No complaints from the ISPs even though HDTV content eats a ton more bandwidth than the regular stuff. So no, I hardly think this will be a major issue above and beyond regular P2P use.
      • by nguy (1207026)
        You can't generalize from Norway to the rest of the world. Norway is oil-rich, and a lot of infrastructure costs are simply paid indirectly by the government.
    • We just discussed how it's radically more efficient, unused bandwidth can now be used at every level.

      I assume that you're a capitalist to the core from your silly comment... maybe if you ACTUALLY had faith in the capitalism you seem to represent you'd realize that more efficiency = less cost... all monopoly problems notwithstanding.
      • by nguy (1207026)
        We just discussed how it's radically more efficient, unused bandwidth can now be used at every level.

        There is no such thing as "unused bandwidth". Even if data isn't being transmitted, the fact that the bandwidth is available immediately for peak demand is important.

        This matters even for home users: if you clog my cable connection 24/7 with P2P traffic, my web browsing experience is badly degraded.
  • After reading just half the article I could hear the thousands of keyboards frantically typing "Duh" in one form or another into posts.

    This has to be the most redundant, not-news, article on ./ ever :)

    It does not contain anything new... no insightful thoughts, different applications, etc.

  • I would have liked to see an analysis of the actual total distribution cost - not the cost to the originator, but the total. In the UK, cost of internet data consists of two parts: The cost of getting the data to your ISP, and the cost of getting the data from the ISP to your home, usually using bandwidth bought at wholesale prices from BT (British Telecom). The cost for the ISP to send data to your home is around £0.60 per Gigabyte, But the cost to get data from a huge source to the ISP is much lowe
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gnasher719 (869701)
      Same post again, with line breaks:

      I would have liked to see an analysis of the actual total distribution cost - not the cost to the originator, but the total.

      In the UK, cost of internet data consists of two parts: The cost of getting the data to your ISP, and the cost of getting the data from the ISP to your home, usually using bandwidth bought at wholesale prices from BT (British Telecom). The cost for the ISP to send data to your home is around £0.60 per Gigabyte, But the cost to get data from
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        I agree in general with your point, but I think your calculations are being very generous. When you get content from the BBC, the cost of getting the data to your ISP is almost nothing because most ISPs have a caching arrangement with the BBC where they host the large pieces of BBC content for their customers and so incur no external bandwidth charges. I contrast, Bittorrent does not take network topology into account, so you may well be exchanging data with peers in the USA. Since transatlantic bandwidt
        • If bittorrent will be heavily used to distribute mainstream media, the ISP's can cull cost without any caching arrangement. Just whitelist a number of torrent seeders (Mainstream, 'legit' seeders) at the ISP side, and cache/seed whatever your customers are downloading from those places. As you can provide best speed to the customers, they will mostly use your seeder and the traffic stays at home. This would probably be more flexible and powerful than current methods.
  • Actual Torrent Files (Score:5, Informative)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @08:28AM (#22686130) Homepage
    If you're looking for the actual torrent files, episodes 1-8 can be found at the bottom of this post: http://nrkbeta.no/norwegian-broadcasting-nrk-makes-popular-series-available-drm-free-via-bittorrent/ [nrkbeta.no]. I'm downloading episode 1 right now, and it has 73 seeds and 42 peers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by CyberK (1191465)
      Lars Monsen programs are actually very good if you like wilderness programs. He's quite popular here in Norway, and has spawned his own tradition of Chuck Norris-style facts due to him being, well, awesome. In this series he lives a whole year outdoors above the Arctic circle, and previously he has done such things as walk across Canada, where he amongst other things scared away a bear by getting angry at it: http://youtube.com/watch?v=hFGwX-BjHX8&feature=related [youtube.com] (Obviously the shouting needs to be done
  • by drhamad (868567) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @08:38AM (#22686162)
    At some level this is redundant, but I'm going to state it in a slightly different way.

    Of course distributing via BitTorrent is cheaper for the originator, nobody could possibly argue this. But I'd like to see a study on the TOTAL cost to society. In other words, yes it's cheaper for the originator, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. SOMEBODY is paying for all that bandwidth/etc. If you have bandwidth limits, perhaps you are paying for them to distribute their file. If you don't (as we in the US do not) then the telecommunications company is paying. Bandwidth does not materialize out of thin air. SOMEBODY pays. Further, BitTorrent is not exactly efficient. It uses a lot more requests/connections/etc to download or distribute via BT than it does via HTTP/FTP/etc.

    The offsetting factor may be the more distributed load over the system, since there's no central point, really. I'm not sure how much this really helps though.

    I guess my point is, the total cost to society of BitTorrent use may very well be higher than that for distributing by older methods.
    • by hey (83763)
      It make sense that the viewer should contribute some bandwidth.
    • by TeknoHog (164938)
      I imagine most consumer upload capacity is sitting unused. Of course the ISP pays for its external traffic, but a lot of P2P traffic can stay within one ISP and therefore save those external links.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wildclaw (15718)

      BitTorrent is not exactly efficient. It uses a lot more requests/connections/etc to download or distribute via BT than it does via HTTP/FTP/etc.

      The overhead is relativly minor when dealing with larger files. It is still the best argument. Minimizing the overhead needs to be a goal of an efficent p2p protocol.

      SOMEBODY is paying for all that bandwidth/etc.

      Yup. However, if any peers deems that paying for the bandwidth isn't worth it, they should turn off their sharing and get everything from the seeders. It will take longer since the distributor is spending less on bandwidth, but eventually he will get it.

      If everyone does the same, the distributor has to increase the amount he spends on bandwid

    • by evilviper (135110)

      If you don't (as we in the US do not) then the telecommunications company is paying. Bandwidth does not materialize out of thin air. SOMEBODY pays.

      I can only HOPE that telecos have to pay a LOT of money. It's their stubborn refusal to enable multicast over their internet pipes that has made streaming video/audio and other large file distribution so incredibly expensive in the first place. If not for that, cable and satellite would have died off a decade ago, as IPTV would have been cheaper, and much more

  • Multicast? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gjh (231652) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:19AM (#22686340)
    What I'd really like to see is figures for the broadcaster and the hidden costs to the ISP for each of....

    - Unicast
    - Bittorrent
    - Multicast

    Multicast is so obviously the best solution all round for the, what, at least 50% of a national TV station's audience that watch predictable and consistent shows week after week. It would be pretty trivial for PCs to grab a multicast overnight.

    By the way, the BBC really tried to do this right [bbc.co.uk], but ISPs were too stupid to see that it was in their best interests to cooperate. This is my reading of the evidence - I accept corrections.
  • by samuel4242 (630369) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:41AM (#22686396)
    It's certainly cheaper for the central server, but doesn't it just push the workload out to the local machines and network connections? Doesn't it just push the costs to the local user who pays for the bandwidth? I like P2P and think some of the algorithms are pretty clever, but I can't deny that my local pipe is saturated by the kids downloading things. There are times I would like my email and web traffic to move a bit faster.

    My prediction is that some clever Slashdot folks will start claiming that P2P is just an evil trick by the man to stick us with the distribution costs!
    • by Wildclaw (15718)

      It's certainly cheaper for the central server, but doesn't it just push the workload out to the local machines and network connections? Doesn't it just push the costs to the local user who pays for the bandwidth?

      Which is a good thing. Distributing workload to computers that would be idleing otherwise is efficent. Not to mention, that whole thing scales well so that the distributor can deal with a slashdot effect.

      There are times I would like my email and web traffic to move a bit faster.

      Use local traffic shaping software (like cfos) to shape protocols. ISPs however should stay with shaping the bandwidth per user as their agreement with their users shouldn't be concerning specific traffic. They are internet service providers, not world wide web service providers.

      • Which is a good thing. Distributing workload to computers that would be idleing otherwise is efficent. Not to mention, that whole thing scales well so that the distributor can deal with a slashdot effect.

        You are not distributing workload to computers. You are distributing the transport of data, and that is most likely not a good thing.

        Different pipes have different costs. The pipe that goes from your home to the ISP and back is the most expensive one you can find. A national broadcaster has a much bigger and more cost-effective pipe available. When the BBC started transmitting programs through the internet, ISPs were not much interested in caching the content, because the delivery from BBC to the ISP ha

    • My prediction is that some clever Slashdot folks will start claiming that P2P is just an evil trick by the man to stick us with the distribution costs!

      As long as it's something free/gratis, I think most everyone will be happy to go out of their way, wasting a little bit of their upstream bandwidth, in exchange.

      Once it starts being commercial content that you either have to pay for directly to unlock it, or have to watch a significant number of commercials, you can expect users to refuse to waste their own b

  • If you're interested in NRK's programs, why not download them straight from NRK? NRK are streaming almost everything! I've written a little Ruby script [rubyforge.org] that scrapes NRK's JavaScript-heavy website until it gets to the raw mms:// URL, which you can then stream or dump via mplayer. I've included a few utility scripts in svn that let you do either.

    Currently I'm working on features to recursively list all of a series' episodes, for example. Then they could be queued or downloaded. We could even parse the date fr
  • by nweaver (113078) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @11:38AM (#22686948) Homepage
    Rather than the broadcaster paying, because retail ISPs have significantly higher cost for bandwidth, this just shifted the cost from the broadcaster to the ISPs.

    For a one-off experiment like this, it wasn't a problem. But if you are an ISP dealing with a company like Vuse, who's businsess model is shifting terabytes in this way, it will be a problems.
  • Not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @12:03PM (#22687062)
    One of the broadcasters has posted the approximate figures for the overall distribution costs,...

    No, they didn't. P2P pushes some of the distribution cost from the originator into the network, and I don't see that this is accounted for at all. If things like Oprah-Skype [disruptivetelephony.com] at 242 Gbps become common, it will not be possible to ignore the distributed network costs.

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