P2P TV Streaming Coming Soon

By Jon Newton 9/5/05

Communist China, already in trouble with American entertainment and software cartels for failing to put a stop to the thriving underground counterfeit production industry, is also now under attack for its burgeoning p2p streaming TV enterprises.

And ironically, for a change, commercial p2p companies aren't in the firing line. Instead, the likes of Microsoft and RealNetworks are named as the preferred delivery vehicles.

A “rising number of people” are using software such as the for-the-moment free Coolstreaming, PPLive and SopCast, a Fudan University student project, to snag shows from stations including HBO, ESPN and MTV and now, “the practice is spreading to Europe, where users have begun tapping into the Chinese services to watch European soccer matches unavailable on their local TV channels,” says the Wall Street Journal.

Jon Newton

And this in turn means the genie is out of the bottle, says BigChampagne’s Eric Garland. American pirates could use the technology to stream feeds from US channels, “which could mean U.S. programming beamed free around the world,” the story has him saying.

Called P2P Streaming Internet TV, the main CoolStreaming network site is, significantly, in English where PPLive and SopCast are mainly Chinese, although that'll probably change soon.

Under PPLive & CoolStreaming, "Does anyone know what it is?" - asks a post on SportNetwork. "Is it a program you download and then watch footie channels from all around the world?"

P2P Streaming Internet TV live broadcasting is similar to BitTorrent and, "its core operations are "very simple," says its site. Every node, "periodically exchanges data availability information with a set of partners, and retrieves unavailable data from one or more partners, or supplies available data to partners".

There's no Spyware or Adware, it boasts, emphasising that it supports Real's rm and Microsoft's wmv formats and that it's so far been downloaded more than 300,000 times.

The site also says, "Coolstreaming.org honors the copyright of all video/audio programs."

Video stream re-broadcaster

Much of the programming is in Chinese, but HBO, ESPN and other Western cable channels offered on the mainland are in English with Chinese subtitles.

P2P streaming turns an ordinary PC picking up the TV show into a video stream re-broadcaster and the signal, taken live off TV systems mostly in China, “is delayed by about a minute before it shows up on computer screens in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media or RealNetworks Inc.'s Real Player program,” says the WSJ.

Coolstreaming is owned by Beijing’s Roxbeam Media Network which sees the application as a test, “for technology it aims to sell commercially,” says the WSJ, going on:

“China's pay-TV market is small, but the global industry faces the risk that P2P streaming TV could catch on in the U.S., where cable revenue totaled $57.6 billion last year, while sales of satellite TV services generated $18.5 billion. The more high-speed Internet users, the bigger the threat to the industry.”

A spokesman for Time Warner Inc.'s Time Warner Cable is quoted as saying that if the practice catches on in the US, "we would prosecute pirates under the full extent of the law."

At the moment, “Asian pirates aren't getting their material from U.S. cable distributors” so US companies aren't taking action against them, says the story.

Hollywood in China

But that could soon change. The formation of a Chinese version of Hollywood’s MPA is nigh.

“China film authorities and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) have signed a memorandum on the crackdown on pirated US home video products for the protection of copyrights of Hollywood movies,” said China’s state news agency, Xinhua, in July.

Walt Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony own the MPA and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and anti-piracy departments in China will form action plans targeted at pirated US home video products, says a “memo”.

With its MPA(A), China Division, nearly in place, Hollywood is poised to take almost instant action if and when the need arises.

Cable channel HBO Asia, “whose greater-China feed is featured on many of the services,” is a joint venture of Viacom's Paramount Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios, says the WSJ. Walt Disney's ESPN as well as ESPN Star, is an Asian joint venture with News Corp but although the companies say they “protect their rights vigorously,” they declined to comment on this particular situation.

And, “So far, the Motion Picture Association of America, one of Hollywood's most aggressive piracy watchdogs, hasn't taken any action against Chinese peer-to-peer streaming networks. ‘We're in the process of investigating the technology and the structure,’ the story has Mike Ellis, the group's Asian-Pacific regional director, saying.


Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.


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