Is data about peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing a huge treasure trove waiting to be tapped for customer intelligence? A Connecticut startup thinks so.

Stamford-based Tru Optik has been collecting and analyzing data about BitTorrent downloads. This week, it released its most complete infographic on the subject [Resources section] — plus a public beta of its first product, an API for tapping into the data.

“More people will download TV shows [through BitTorrent] in 2014 than will tweet about them,” co-founder and CEO Andrew Swanston told VentureBeat. The company’s stats show that there are more P2P downloads each month of TV shows and films, for example, than downloads of that content on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon combined.

P2P data, he added, provides “the largest untapped source of consumer intelligence available, and the metadata is absurd [in its breadth], with tags, comments, locations,” and more.

The Tru Optik API, which previously has been in private beta, is the company’s tool for acquiring and analyzing real-time and historical data from P2P.

p2p versus

Although some may think P2P has been declining, Tru Optik’s data, which it says is more accurate that other sources because it taps directly at the peer level, shows there were nearly 32 million P2P users in the U.S. in March, compared to 28 million for the entire year of 2010.

Tru Optik, the recipient of a seed round of $225,000 from a group led by Connecticut Innovation, has its sights set on tapping P2P behavior.

“What no one’s been able to do is cross-category [customer analysis]” at the kind of scale that P2P data can provide, Swanston told VentureBeat.

“If you watch this TV show and listen to this music and use this app, [what else might you like?]”

P2P use is impacted in different ways by different kinds of content suppliers, he told us. “Spotify impacts P2P,” Swanston said, “but Netflix does not,” which Tru Optik believes is because Spotify’s selection size is so much larger and its release window is so much more immediate than Netflix’s.

“People want the wider selection,” he said, “and they want it right away.”

This is one of the reasons that Tru Optik also sees P2P as a “leading indicator of audience size and demand,” forecasting what content is not being provided by the marketplace.

Of course, P2P — virtually always using the BitTorrent protocol — is synonymous with illegal downloads. Tru Optik’s data indicates that legal BitTorrent bundles increased more than 200 percent in the period from May to December of last year — Madonna, among others, have used this kind of distribution — but the company says it cannot yet tell if BitTorrent is trending more legal overall.

But it can tell if downloads are being driven largely by users who can’t afford to buy the entertainment. Mostly, they’re not.

In the U.S., the data shows that nearly 70 percent of downloads occurred in neighborhoods having an average household income of $50,000 to $90,000 per year, and another 18 percent were in neighborhoods with average incomes over $90,000.