Oprah Webcast Draws 500,000 Simultaneous Viewers

Last night, Oprah did a special 90 minute webcast live on the Oprah.com website and just released details on the traffic numbers. They had more than 500,000 simultaneous users viewing the stream and peaked at 242Gbps of traffic. The stream was encoded into the Move Networks platform and viewers could have gotten a stream at 150Kbps or as high as 750Kbps all depending on their connection.

The announcement on the Oprah site today which is on behalf of Harpo, Move Networks and Limelight Networks also says that, "Unfortunately, some of our users experienced delays in viewing the webcast." That comes as no surprise there considering the number of people trying to view the webcast, let alone at a high bitrate. But I give the Oprah site credit for setting expectations before the webcast started.

When you went to the site last night, the webcast page said something to the effect that the webcast would have a huge demand and that potentially some people just would not be able to log on to see it. They made that very clear and also said where and when the archives would be made available.

Half a million simultaneous streams at a high bitrate easily puts this at the top of the list when it comes to large webcast numbers. Is it larger than the MSN webcast last year of LiveEarth? No one knows as MSN only said their event had the "Most Simultaneous Viewers of Any Online Concert Ever" but didn’t say what that number was.

In all, it really does not matter which was the biggest. The big take away from this webcast is that it shows proof that the Internet is not built to handle TV like distribution and those who think that live TV shows will be broadcast on the Internet with millions and millions of people watching, it’s just not going to happen.

Oprah will be doing more of these webcasts over the coming weeks and it will be interesting to compare all the numbers.

  • 500K simultaneous with Move Networks’ variable bitrate product! Dag that’s a big number. If Move had capped the bit rate at say 300K they might have had enough bandwidth to have even more viewers. If they had used P2P streaming they could have cut their pipe down by 10-20X. If they run 40 30-sec spots an hour (next time) they could easily clear $500K in ad revs. They are close. Very close.

  • todd

    From March Madness to the Clinton/Obama debate to this latest Opray show, the old school method of streaming live DOES NOT WORK!! Why is it that it is so hard to accept that the Akamai/s of the world are great at what they do but not very good at live steaming?

  • meagain

    Pretty good video on ABC/Move. Huge DL 800-1500 Kbps over wifi…..good vid and sound…but it can’t scale

  • John Sparks

    I hope Limelight Networks has worked out the kinks as they are also a partner of Modavox who is providing the platform for the upcoming live PPV event for Eckert Tolle. This guy, thanks to Oprah and his book is generating some major traffic.
    This PPV model is pretty cool and seemingly highly scalable. Apparently Modavox gets $7-$8 per ever participant.
    Here’s the info if anyone is interested:

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  • Couple things to keep in mind here. YES they should be charging for these webcasts either to an Advertisor or via PPV or subscription.
    This audience has a wallet and won’t hesitate to break it out.
    Secondly P2P Live Streaming has never been tested in scale and while a lot of P2P streaming vendors are saying it’s the answer to all CDN problems, this has just not been proven.
    User’s still have a say on whether they will want their machines used to deliver content to other viewers. Furthermore it’s not clear that Major Rightsholders are ok with this approach yet although the tide is turning.

  • Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen

    Also important to note that everyone who registered for the event received an email early Tuesday morning, letting them know what had happened and giving them alternative ways to view the event.
    (And while it’s true that all parties could monetize on this particular audience, the fact of the matter is that from the get-go Oprah set it up as free, announcing that her intent was not to make money off of it.)

  • Meagain. My beef is with Dan’s statement “that the Internet is not built to handle TV like distribution”. For sure, we can’t port everything TV does today over to IP…there’s nowhere near the room. But remember TV is a very fragmented mix of cable, satellite and broadcast. If Oprah can attract 500K simultaneous viewers, she’s well with the audience size of the largest cable channels. For example, Foxnews does about 400K viewers (25-64) according to today’s NYT. And you are paying for Bill O’Reilly in your basic cable bill, Obama-fans. So there’s a viable market for streaming content over IP. If the Golfchannel can make it why not golf.tv? Two reasons.
    Problem #1 is bitrate. The huge picture I saw last night for primary coverage on MOVE/ABC multiplied by 5,000,000 would gag most ISPs and cablecos. IP can’t deliver a full TV experience with close to SD quality as ABC promises. But for Oprah and news who cares? We don’t need big pictures for talking heads.
    Problem #2 is advertising. I didn’t see any on ABC.com last night and I guess Oprah didn’t do much either. Most ad units you see on TV can’t be simulcast over IP. For broadcasters it’s just a pain to mix programming with internet-OK ads. So no one does it at scale. So those 500Ms that Oprah got the other night go unmonetized @$0/CPM.
    In conclusion, the audience IS there but ISPs won’t allow networks to push really FAT pictures down their pipes but it doesn’t matter because digital rights for programming and advertising is so royally messed up.

  • Nico

    On the same thread, I would like to point out, I could not get the On-demand version to work either 🙂
    But I will only try as hard as the average user when a cutom install is required.

  • So if to believe Dan (claiming that the Internet is not built to handle TV like distribution) what would be ideal for Oprah-like audience size? I take it the most efficient approach then would be simply bittorrent but no LIVE streaming.

  • I think half a million users all at once is huge for something like Oprah. You have to think about world markets. At 8:30pm EST when it starts, Europe is asleep and Asia is only just waking up. So you’re talking about an event where most of the live traffic is coming from the U.S.
    500,000 users all at once is ideal, the second webcast last night did 200,000 users all at once. The idea that Oprah will one day get 5 million or 10 million users all at once is laughable. The Internet will never have that many users trying to watch something all within an hour and half of each other. Not to mention how many servers that would require the CDN to have, just to deliver that one live event. On average, you are talking between 12,000-16,000 servers just to be able to support that one live event.

  • Todd Culotta

    This is a prime example of how demand continues to impact the growth of the internet. I would imagine the choke points of these problems were probably CDN related. Using limelight, as well as Level 3, and Akamai, they could have balanced their traffic and most likely accomodated more viewers. It may not be perfect or reach as many viewers as a TV broadcast but its a start, and really the first step into narrow casting as you can collect info on every viewer and market accordingly. The idea here is that the internet is not in the near future going to replace the TV, but to enhance the viewing experience and add new avenues for revenue for content owners, and broadcasters.

  • Really ???
    it make that mcuh view owooww