Monday, 15 October 2012

A clash of broadcasting worlds

Did you watch Felix Baumgartner's record breaking jump yesterday? It was amazing.

Watching live on the Red Bull branded wesite at, I thought we could be seeing a new era in live broadcasting. After all, if you own the content, then why get somebody else to broadcast it for you? Run your own station, for as long as you need it, on the web.

Why would Neil Armstrong's moon landing be broadcast on TV in an era of live streaming?

There is a very good reason.

Red Bull's stream (via YouTube) attracted an audience of eight million. That would be very impressive if it was a UK audience, but it isn't. It's a global audience.

Eight million globally is, frankly, a bit crap. It's a YouTube record, but that's not the point. ITV were showing an hour long Coronation Street special at the same time as Felix was hoping he'd packed his 'chute properly and that did 6.25m, just in the UK.

So why do you want a regular TV broadcaster for your content? Simple. Audience reach. It's the same reason advertisers want TV ads, even if they've truly bought into social media.

I'm assuming one of two things happened with Red Bull Stratos. Either Google bunged Red Bull some fairly serious cash for the exclusive rights to Live stream via YouTube, or regular broadcasters just weren't interested, because they couldn't be given a predictable prime-time slot when the jump would take place. "Sometime in the next week if the weather's ok" doesn't really work for an ITV scheduler.

In one (fabulous) event, we've got the best and worst of new and old media. Only old media could have got that footage in front of its true potential audience. But TV is too inflexible to make the scheduling work for an event as unpredictable as the Stratos project.

In the UK at least, it's a shame we didn't have a dedicated digital TV channel that could be activated on short notice and then trailed on a major network. Press the red button to watch a nutter jump from space. The technology is there and it worked really well during the olympics. For a moon landing type event (Mars landing?) in 2012, I'm betting that's what would happen.

Unfortunately, the broadcaster with that capability is the BBC. With Red Bull logos everywhere? Never going to happen.

We're not quite living in the future yet. If you missed the footage yesterday because you didn't have one eye on Twitter, then here's the Austrian with the big cahones in all his high altitude parachutey glory. Enjoy.

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