The initiative has been a huge success on every front — viewers love the super high-resolution picture and most people have reported incredibly short download times (given the file sizes). Furthermore, viewers have been downloading the episodes en-masse (around 80,000 times in the past 3 weeks). To top it all off, NRK hasn’t broken the bank to deliver the goods; in fact, they haven’t even broken a sweat.
To-date, NRK has paid a total of $350 for storage and delivery of the entire series. This information was disclosed to me by project manager Eirik Solheim; he also estimated that the bandwidth bill would have been roughly $8,000, had NRK chosen a more traditional delivery method.
Eirik shared the secret sauce behind the project:
All the HD video files were stored and delivered using Amazon’s S3 data service, which has optional bittorrent capabilities. NRK syndicated the .torrent episodes over an RSS feed, which allowed the program to work something like a podcast.
NRK recommends that people use Miro to subscribe: it’s the easiest way for folks to use BitTorrent and it fits their public-interest mission. The estimate that a high percentage of their downloaders (50% or more) are using Miro.
The ease of use is very important, because it encourages more people to participate in watching and sharing the shows. Technically, the cost to the producer for distributing to a handful of viewers, say 300, is basically the same as doing so for 1,000,000 people. This is because after a point, distribution is handled by the viewers themselves; as the number of viewers rises, the work that NRK does stays constant.
All in all, the pilot has been a major success, and is blazing a trail to wider adoption of bittorrent delivery for NRK programs. We’ll definitely post here when we get more details.