242 Gbps: An Internet Broadcast to 500,000 People

Something happened last night that I’m amazed has seen remarkably little coverage in the blogosphere or tech press. Thankfully the folks at Skype Journal covered it before and after: a HUGE online event — Oprah Book Club classes with nine more to come — with author Eckhard Tolle. This mass, Internet delivered production was put on by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and sponsored by Chevrolet, 3M’s PostIt and Skype (audience questions were delivered via Skype’s new high quality video capability).

It didn’t go so well.

“Monday night’s webcast was one of the largest single online events in the history of the Internet. More than 500,000 people simultaneously logged on to watch Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle live, resulting in 242 Gbps of information moving through the Internet. Unfortunately, some of our users experienced delays in viewing the webcast. We are working to identify the specific causes for the problems experienced and will work diligently to rectify them.

Harpo Productions, Inc., Move Networks and Limelight Networks recognize that interactive Internet broadcasting to a mass audience is still an emerging medium, and we’re proud to have been pioneers in pushing the industry forward. We deeply regret that some of our audience did not have an optimal viewing experience and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. The first session of the webinar will be available in its entirety for viewing on Oprah.com or for downloading as a podcast on Oprah.com or iTunes on Tuesday, March 4.”

My heart sings for so many reasons though:

  • Oprah continuing to take the high road and bringing thought leaders, big ideas and consciousness raising spirit to the masses continues to delight and amaze me. The emphasis is always on the positive, the connectedness of us all and I believe that the world needs more in the way of optimism, hope and creative solutions to problems
  • As a strategic technologist, the risk taken by Harpo Productions and partners Move Networks and Limelight Networks was unprecedented and a remarkable learning opportunity for us all. I know of few organizations or leaders who’d take the risk of potentially alienating a half million people with a bad experience! Wow.
  • As you can see in the statement (taken from here), they were authentically transparent and have provided the file for on-demand viewing in several ways.

I’m not an internet architect and my understanding of multicast is slim as is the true nature of congestion on the ‘net…or as Senator Ted Stevens so humorously stated “The internet is not something you dump things on like a big truck, it’s a series of tubes“.  What’s clear is that major, visible organizations like this one is a way commercial pressure will be placed on the backbone providers (and Washington) to ensure that the internet will stand up to mass events just like last night’s “class”.

Bravo Oprah.


  1. Tom Poe on March 6, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    I’ve seen one reference not too long ago reporting the use of broadband in a scandinavian country, I think. What was striking, was the conclusion that some 80% of the broadband usage was local, rather than across the globe. If we think about the Oprah event, but imagine local activities, such as local telethons from neighborhoods, local nonprofits, local events, activities, and town hall meeting formats, garage sales with live interaction amongst the residents, it isn’t too surprising. I am biased, but I don’t think we should be waiting for our Internet to be changed into a one-way media distribution channel. It only costs $50 per house to get that last mile solution in place. Once that happens, there’s no need to rely on giant corporations. Which begs the question, why won’t they spend the measly $50 per house, and give the public that last mile solution?

  2. BeautyDialogues on March 25, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Oprah in the Morning

    Admittedly I’m a little behind the curve here, but this morning i took my iPod out for a walk (this is a new-to-me technique I’m experimenting with to motivate myself to walk more regularly) loaded with the first session of

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.