Felix Baumgartner's giant leap for Internet viewing

The Associated Press | All Things D | NJ.com | Reuters TV | Scientific American | Charles Apple

Presidential debates may be among the last refuges of appointment viewing, but Felix Baumgartner's 24-mile leap over New Mexico Sunday was largely viewed on the Internet, the Associated Press' Juan Carlos Llorca and Oskar Garcia write:

The event happened without a network broadcast in the United States, though organizers said more than 40 television stations in 50 countries - including cable's Discovery Channel in the U.S. - carried the live feed. Instead, millions flocked online, drawing more than 8 million simultaneous views to a YouTube live stream at its peak, YouTube officials said.

Q.E.D: Internet metrics. Here's the animated GIF (scroll down). Here's the Lego video. (Also, woah: helmet cam.)

The number of live streams "blows away YouTube’s previous peak of 500,000 concurrent streams," Peter Kafka writes.

So it doesn’t take much imagination to envision YouTube doing this kind of stuff, at this scale, on a regular basis. Which would mean the Web finally has a chance to rival TV when it comes to serving up live events with huge audiences — one of TV’s last remaining advantages over the Internet.

Baumgartner's jump was broadcast with a 20-second delay. In a tweet last week, Poynter's Al Tompkins asked television stations whether they were "willing to air the worst outcome." In 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek wrote that three extreme athletes who, like Baumgartner, were sponsored by Red Bull, have died in action.

The peril is not bad branding. Red Bull draws an audience that craves extreme events, sports marketer Michael A. Neuman tells Reuters TV. He also says Red Bull produces "three and half times more views on their YouTube channel than Coca-Cola does."

There's also an opportunity in Baumgartner's jump for fact-checkers: In a guest blog for Scientific American, David Ropeik writes that 24 miles is "not literally the edge of space, far from it, but media likes to take that freedom with the facts." Space begins at the "Karman line," 100 kilometers or about 62 miles above the Earth. Here's a précis on the tech involved.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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