Some electronic media industry experts predict the ultimate vehicle for all communications will be advanced peer-to-peer (P2P) technology. P2P is a simple and efficient way to share files directly between people on the same computer network, cutting out the need for a central server. Today, content providers, such as NBC television in the U.S., are using P2P as a distribution platform because it enables them to cut out the middleman, such as iTunes, and deal directly with viewers. And by sharing files already stored (cached), on consumers' cable boxes (which, in the case of P2P, act like computers), cable operators would be able to reduce the amount of costly bandwidth being used at any given moment.
However, while P2P technologies offer the opportunity for legitimate delivery systems, the television industry at large remains hindered by the perception that it is simply a piracy technology. But since P2P now offers producers the possibility of making a profit delivering content over the Internet, it is being given a flesh look, especially by those content owners who have made availability of online video to consumers a priority.
In the end, the market is going to decide what works and what doesn't. George Searle, CEO of file-sharing program LimeWire said, "It's tough to reconcile the various interests. Content owners are going to have to make some serious decisions. Suing consumers doesn't work. All of the lawsuits haven't done anything to curb P2P. It's just fragmented the user base. If you change the user experience," meaning, if you stop giving consumers the content they want or letting them use that content the way they want to, "they'll just go elsewhere," he said, noting that new file-sharing programs pop up all the time. "It also hasn't put a penny in the pockets of rights holders. The old [business model] isn't going to give way to a new one without a lot of learning and growing. It's got to be sensitive and respective to the user base."
Gilles BianRosa, CEO of California's Vuze, a software application that allows consumers to find, download, play and share media content of all types, concurred, saying content owners want control, the flexibility to experiment, and security. "But to curb piracy you have to out-perform piracy. Making content available is more powerful than trying to prevent consumers from getting what they want."
At a time when TV networks, studios and record labels are struggling to monetize the Internet, P2P should...