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YouTube Streams First Live Event
11/25/2008

The Google/YouTube empire must just be warming up for bigger-time events. But Nov. 22, a smattering of artists joined the giant for its first-ever live event, a concert and party in San Francisco.

The event drew about 700,000 viewers—a pittance for television but not bad for an Internet concert with minimal promotion and a dearth of household names.

However, as Internet guru Mark Cuban pointed out on his blog, the costs of such a stream could be the limiting factor in this type of media.

“While the cost to promote was extraordinarily low, the cost to deliver was incredibly high,” he wrote. “The marginal cost to deliver one more viewer for even the smallest cable network is the same as the largest. Nothing. Youtube had to use the services of [Web accelerator] Akamai to deliver the event. Akamai by all accounts did a great job, but as the size of the audience grows, the total cost to deliver future Youtube live shows will increase. Cable networks do not have this problem.”

Maybe it’s those costs that led YouTube to invite a lot of lesser-known artists to the concert; the Jonas Brothers might have pushed the limited of even Akamai. Apart from a few well-known artists (rapper Akon, guitar demon Joe Satriani, and Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am) it featured a lot of acts that most people over 35 have never heard of, along with some flashes-in-the-pan from YouTube’s arsenal of “viral” and mash-up artists so popular with the kids these days.

It’s been more than three years since the uncut Internet feeds of the Live8 Concerts made a mockery of the dismal coverage by MTV and VH-1. But Cuban figures the technology is far from proven. And, Akamai’s efforts notwithstanding, there were still reports of drop-outs and other hiccups.

“How many simultaneous users across multiple large events could Akamai and its competitors handle?” Cuban asks. “I would be shocked if it could handle 3mm simultaneous 800k streams reliably.”

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