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BitTorrent Gets New CEO, Prepares to Spin Off Live TV Streaming Unit (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 3/27/2017 Janko Roettgers
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More changes are afoot at BitTorrent: The San Francisco-based P2P technology company has hired Rogelio Choy as its new CEO, and is now looking to spin off its BitTorrent Live service as a separate, venture-funded company, Variety has learned from sources close to the company.

BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen is expected to use the transition to step back from his day-to-day involvement in the company and instead focus on a new crypto-currency project. BitTorrent and Choy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Choy is taking the corporate leadership scepter from Dipak Joshi, who stepped in as interim CEO after the company fired its previous co-CEOs in October. Joshi will continue to work as BitTorrent’s CFO, a role that he has been holding since 2014.

For Choy, the new role is a kind of homecoming: The new CEO, whose job officially began this past Thursday, served as BitTorrent’s COO from 2012 to 2015. After that, he worked as Chief Business Officer for San Francisco-based on-demand parking service Luxe Valet.

Choy is rejoining BitTorrent as the company is refocusing on its core products, namely the BitTorrent and uTorrent P2P clients. As part of that renewed focus, BitTorrent is also looking to spin out BitTorrent Live, the P2P-powered live video streaming project that was originally started by BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen some nine years ago. After experimenting with different product iterations, BitTorrent has been quietly working on turning BitTorrent Live into a live streaming service for TV networks and other premium real-time content.

About a year ago, BitTorrent released a first live streaming app for Apple TV. Since then, the company has brought BitTorrent Live to Fire TV as well as iOS, Android and Mac computers. BitTorrent Live’s website currently lists live streams from more than two dozen TV networks, including Bloomberg Television, The Blaze and QVC.

Most of these networks are free to watch to registered users of the service, but the company recently also began to sell access to two news programming bundles, priced $2 and $5 per month respectively. BitTorrent Live VP of Media Erik Schwartz told Variety last May that the company’s ultimate goal was to build a virtual pay TV service.

The company is now looking to spin out BitTorrent Live as a separate company, and is currently in the process of raising funding to do so, sources told Variety. BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen is expected to be on the board of the new company, as well as remain on the board of BitTorrent, but focus his day-to-day work on a new crypto-currency project.

The leadership change and spin-off come after what had been a tumultuous year for the veteran P2P company. BitTorrent faced a leadership change about a year ago after two outside investors acquired one of the original investor’s stake in the company. Those investors not only got seats on BitTorrent’s board, but also briefly became co-CEO’s of the company and spearheaded an expensive expansion into the media space, including the opening of a Los Angeles production facility.

Those efforts ultimately failed; both CEOs were fired in October, and the company shut down its Los Angeles studio space and effectively shuttered its media operations, save for its separate BitTorrent Live TV streaming efforts.

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