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Cable Technology Feature Article

August 16, 2013

BitTorrent Crowdsources TV Series Development with 'Fly or Die'

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

File-sharing site BitTorrent (News - Alert) is rehabbing its image as an enemy of content owners with an experiment in indie TV distribution. Its latest BitTorrent bundle is oriented around developing, producing and distributing a new scripted series directed by Joel Bergvall called “Fly or Die.” It will be, the company said, an exercise in audience collaboration.

The show, from Converge Studios, documents the inner workings of the music industry. Inspired by the multiplatinum pop producers Rock Mafia, it blurs the line between fact and fiction and offers “a window into a world fueled by ego, insecurity, crazy talent and star power, featuring cameos from Gavin DeGraw, Vanessa Hudgens, Jesse McCartney, Ken Baker, YLA and more.”

In a blog announcing the initiative, BitTorrent commentator Matt Mason laid out the mathematics of how pilots traditionally get made: Each summer, the major American broadcast television networks receive about 500 elevator pitches for new shows from writers and producers. In fall, the field is narrowed down to 70. By January, 20 pilots are picked as potential winners, and produced. Executives from each of the big networks may choose between four to eight shows for series status. And typically, less than two of these survive for more than one season.

Instead of relying on a rarified executive process, BitTorrent and Converge are looking to crowdsource the production of the series. “We were working on a project and wanted to go direct-to-fan,” said Tim Staples (News - Alert), an exec at Converge. “We were looking at different ways to make that work; everything from YouTube, to social media, to celebrity channels. We came to BitTorrent with a crazy idea — a new way to get content developed and distributed. For us, it was an opportunity to take a great show and test it; to develop iteratively, together with our audience.”

BitTorrent users can download the series trailer for free. If they like what they see, they can enter their e-mails to become part of the show’s production team. Users can also unlock seven bonus videos, background on the show, the music and the story, and get an invitation to join the community that will creatively shape the Fly of Die’s future: impacting everything from storyline to distribution.

Mason noted, “Reddit shapes plot lines. Twitter is a writers’ room. American Idols are chosen via text. YouTube (News - Alert) is our film school. Is series development something that should be open-sourced? What if you opened up the pilot process to the people of the Internet? What if a TV series started acting like a startup?”

It is, he points out, television by the people, for the people.

“Creativity is about sharing. BitTorrent supplies this vast net of new people and ideas,” Mason said. “To get that interaction; to get that feedback: that’s the new model. These types of new distribution platforms are crucial to the creative community. They’re what fuel growth: for artists, and for entertainment. And that’s really exciting.”

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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