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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 11:11 GMT
BitTorrent download portal debuts
Screengrab of BitTorrent homepage, BitTorrent
The download service is due to debut soon

The creators of the BitTorrent file-sharing network have opened the doors on a legal download service.

The BitTorrent Entertainment Network launched on 26 February and gives subscribers access to a large catalogue of movies, music and videos.

It has the backing of several movie and TV studios and will build on the large numbers of existing BitTorrent users.

However, it will face stiff competition from the many other multimedia stores and video sites found online.

Hard task

At launch the service will have about 3,000 movies and TV shows available from companies such as Warner Brothers, Paramount, MTV, MGM, 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate.

New releases will include films such as Superman Returns and featured TV shows will include 24 and Prison Break.

We need to give them a price that feels like a good value relative to what they were getting for free
Ashwin Navin, co-founder and president of BitTorrent

New movies will cost $3.99 (2) but older films will cost $2.99 to download. TV shows will be $1.99 though high definition versions will be $2.99. There is no official word yet on non-US prices.

Once downloaded the TV shows available via the service can be kept indefinitely but movies can only be stored for up to 30 days. Anyone signing up must also use Windows Media Player to watch or listen to anything they download.

BitTorrent also hopes to encourage the creation of a community around the entertainment site where customers will be able to post videos they have made for others to download.

The market for multimedia portals is starting to get crowded and BitTorrent will face competition from Amazon, Apple, Wal-Mart , Microsoft's Xbox as well as from YouTube, Joost and the CinemaNow and Movielink sites.

The BitTorrent software is thought to have been installed on more than 135 million computers and the BitTorrent company hopes to persuade some of those users to sign up for its entertainment service.

However, it acknowledges that it will have a hard task convincing those who currently get all the movies, TV shows and music they want without paying.

"We're really hammering the studios to say, 'Go easy on this audience,'" said Ashwin Navin, co-founder and president of BitTorrent. "We need to give them a price that feels like a good value relative to what they were getting for free."

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