has finally gone live with its Hollywood-tastic new design, with movies and TV shows available to buy, rent and download.
The new site is the result of a year's worth of deal-making between Bram Cohen's legendary P2P download service and the major Hollywood TV stations and film studios. BitTorrent hopes to make some money out of its undoubtedly awesome technology; Hollywood hopes to stunt illegal downloading.
Films are available to rent for $3-4, and are protected with Windows DRM (bleugh). You have 30 days from download to watch, or 24-hours after you hit play, whichever is sooner. TV shows cost an iTunes-a-like $1.99, and you get to keep those. In amongst the commercial content is free content from providers such as Revision3
There is a smattering of HD content, but not a lot - annoying, since BitTorrent is arguably the most effective method for distributing shows in HD given the file size.
Doug Lee is an executive at MGM films, and he told the New York Times that
"We like the idea that they have millions of users worldwide. That is potentially fertile, legitimate ground for us." Does anyone else think that he's misunderstanding the difference between the BitTorrent.com and the BT protocol? Meanwhile, Bram Cohen was bemoaning the DRM that the industry has been keen to slap on downloads. "We are not happy with the user interface implications... It’s an unfortunate thing. We would really like to strip it all away,” he told the NYT.
Do you think that this will convince the millions of BitTorrent users to eschew the Pirate Bay and get involved with downloading their content legally? Arguably, the same arguments now apply to the official BitTorrent website as to other services like iTunes - the same content, in worse quality, with more restrictions, but more expensive. DRM does not help you compete with 'free'.
Of course, here's the other typically narrow-minded kicker - the service only works if you're in the US. Anyone in Europe or elsewhere can just go back to Pirate Bay - Hollywood doesn't care about you.
Have you tried the new service? Let us know your thoughts over in the forums.