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BitTorrent Wants to Get Into the News Business

If they’ve heard of it at all, most people probably know BitTorrent as the software that powers peer-to-peer file sharing services like The Pirate Bay. But the company has ambitions to become much more than that—it wants to become a full-fledged, Netflix-style streaming video provider.

As part of those efforts, BitTorrent looks to be building its own in-house news operation, according to a recent report from Variety magazine. Eagle-eyed reporter Janko Roettgers spotted a job advertisement placed by BitTorrent, which said the company is looking for someone to hire a team of San Francisco-based journalists and create a worldwide network of freelancers.

“If you had a blank slate to start a live-streaming TV news network, what would you build?” the job ad asks prospective applicants. It goes on to say that BitTorrent “has recently launched a live video streaming platform [and] now we need a team to create a tent-pole live news channel to run on it.”

BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen also appeared to be fishing on Twitter for experts who might want to be interviews on the company’s news channel:

The streaming-video platform that the job ad refers to is BitTorrent Live, which the company launched last month. Powered by an updated version of the peer-to-peer technology that made the company famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective), the service so far consists of a handful of lesser-known channels such as FightBox and TWiT TV, although the company says it plans to add more in the future.

The news operation also sounds like it is going to start small and then try to scale up from there, judging from the classified ad. The company says that it is “building a lean team to start, and early on we expect everyone will wear many hats.” The ad also says the news channel will start out by focusing primarily on breaking news events, including political campaigns and sporting events.

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The idea of a BitTorrent news operation isn’t a complete surprise—the company experimented with producing its own news coverage during the New Hampshire election primary earlier this year. The updates came via a dedicated app called OTT News, which users could download for the Apple TV platform, as well as iOS and Android.

BitTorrent’s streaming video aspirations go a lot farther back than just the 2016 election, however. Cohen has been working on peer-to-peer streaming video for several years now, starting with a service (also called BitTorrent Live) aimed at desktop users that launched in 2012. But the company shut down those efforts after a lackluster response from users.