BitTorrent woos European advertisers

BitTorrent, the company behind the peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol, wants to spread its advertising wings across Europe.

According to a job listing first spotted by TorrentFreak, BitTorrent is seeking a sales director for Europe to drive business and establish relationships with agency trading desks, brands, and supply-side and demand-side platforms.

BitTorrent’s director of content strategy Straith Schreder recently wrote that the company grew the number of content creators using its bundles by 50 percent to 30,000, in 2015. It introduced its latest bundles, dubbed “pay gates” in 2014, letting musicians and filmmakers take a 90 percent revenue cut on any purchases made via the BitTorrent network.

BitTorrent serves around 200 million ads to its user base daily, though not at necessarily high rates, according to Torrent Freak, which reports inventory is sold for just 7 cents CPM.

BitTorrent has had reputation challenges due to its associations with piracy, specifically in the music industry. It has tried to correct that by asserting its position as a legal file-sharing distribution operation. It pitches itself as a “direct-to-fan distribution platform” where content creators ranging from independent music and film artists to publishers including Spotify and BBC Worldwide can share their work with the 170 million film and music fans the company claims to reach.

Bob Wootton, director of media and advertising for U.K. advertiser trade body ISBA, said BitTorrent still has a “somewhat tarnished” reputation because of its historical association with piracy and illegal file sharing, which is why it can command only low inventory prices and why “reputable” advertisers aren’t interested.

“It could conceivably attract a better price around its ‘artist development’ activities if it trades that separately and doesn’t bundle and thus commoditize it. However, it still starts from behind compared to, say, the latest shiny new startup social site or app. Moreover, BitTorrent could lose some of its most loyal users if it ‘goes respectable,’ he said, adding that the sales director will have a “tough gig” ahead of them.

BitTorrent is used by record labels to legally release music and by broadcasters to legally distribute their shows. (It is, also, to be fair, used for piracy of content.) BitTorrent got the ball rolling with British publishers last year when it began distributing digital box-set, 10-episode bundles of “Doctor Who” for $12 (£8) for BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC. The free downloads topped BitTorrent’s 2015 chart with 1.9 million downloads, ahead of American show “Hits” by U.S. comedian David Cross, which had 1.5 million downloads.


Yet many believe the company has made strides in repairing its reputation. For those who understand the advantage of BitTorrent technology, which makes it easy to share huge files efficiently, there are some untapped opportunities.

“It’s not for all brands,” said Simon Gill, chief creative officer at DigitasLBi. “Some won’t go anywhere near it, but the more enlightened ones, especially those operating in the Internet-of-things landscape, should start thinking about how to use BitTorrent to embrace concepts like the Internet’s collaborative culture.”

Attractive opportunities could involve brands providing more value-exchange type experiences rather than typical banner ads, such as free digital items like app store credits or mobile data in exchange for watching or downloading content, according to Gill.