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Pageant Delivers Second Screen
10/9/2009

NEW YORK
The 2009 Miss Universe Pageant—seen live on NBC and Telemundo in August—drew 6.0 million U.S. viewers and a worldwide television audience of one billion.

So why would the management of this prestigious 59 year-old pageant push hard to launch a Webcasting operation? The reasons range from wanting to create added value premium content to its traditional broadcast product, drive interest in its pageants, and give fans worldwide a way to participate in the excitement of the beauty queen selection process.

The Miss Universe Organization used Newtek's Tricaster Broadcaster to stream added content online. Credit: Miss Universe Organization L.P., LLLP
To date, there have been four Miss Universe events streamed live over the Internet: Miss Teen USA held July 31, 2009; the preliminary competition for Miss Universe (known as the “Presentation Show”) held August 16, 2009; and the Miss Universe “Crowning Moment” and “Coronation Ball,” both held the night of the pageant, August 23. The 2009 Miss Universe Pageant took place at Atlantis Paradise Island, a resort in the Bahamas.

“It was phenomenally successful considering the little amount of time we had to set everything up,” said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization. “It was viewed as a huge success by everyone that participated. I feel very strongly that this is something that will be a revenue generator for us.”

VALUE ADDED CONTENT

The Miss Universe, Miss USA, and Miss Teen USA pageants are a Donald J. Trump and NBC Universal joint venture. For this reason, the Miss Universe pageant was televised live on NBC and Telemundo. The Webcasts were accessible from three Internet locations: NBC.com, Ustream.com, and either MissUniverse.com for Miss Universe or MissTeenUSA.com for Miss Teen USA. These webcasts were produced using the NewTek TriCaster Broadcast, an affordable, portable live production system designed to enable anyone to produce a network-style show to stream over the Internet.

Ustream was chosen as the live interactive video broadcast platform because of its proven ability to handle massive-scale Web events, such as the Michael Jackson Funeral and the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. In August alone, the MissUniverse.com Web site drew 43 million page views, and counted 5 million visitors who tuned in during the live Miss Universe webcasts on August 23—from more than 225 countries and territories worldwide. Throughout the day of that event, they had 27 million hits on the MissUniverse.com Web site alone.

“The viewers and fan base said they really want the opportunity to get to know the contestants, and you can’t do that in the space of a two-hour broadcast,” said Shugart. “But you can do that when you have unlimited possibilities on the Internet. So we have video interviews, photo sessions, and [profiles] for each contestant in the pageant.

“That’s why people were staying on an average of three to eight minutes that came to our site… and that can only grow exponentially,” she added. “We’re particularly strong in the Women 18-49 demo, so for advertisers looking to reach that market, we can deliver those eyeballs, and instead of just one two-hour special, do it on a weekly basis with Webisodes [video featurettes about the reigning queen’s year-long activities]. And that’s going to be the future.”

INTERNET VISION

According to Colin Hornett, Web content producer for the Miss Universe Organization, the catalyst for the streaming effort was that there was no broadcast agreement for Miss Teen USA. (Paula Shugart saw the Internet as a low-cost alternative means of broadcasting that event.) With little lead-time or publicity, that Webcast trial garnered an Internet audience of about 40,000 concurrent viewers.

The only promotions they did for the Miss Teen USA Webcast was “to put it out on the wire,” as well as contact local media in the top broadcast markets. Ustream also publicized it on Ustream.com, which helped gain viral momentum. In the future, Hornett said they will definitely utilize Twitter and other social media networks to create buzz about Webcasts.

When asked how their Internet would impact their use of traditional broadcast, Hornett said, “I don’t know... that’s tough. The Internet seems to work as a global network. And Ustream is well positioned to reach our fans worldwide, especially in South America, Europe and Southeast Asia.”

Newtek Tricaster
But he added that one problem with the Internet is that it’s very difficult to enforce their copyrights around the world since anyone can pick up and embed the URL into their own Web sites. About this same issue, Shugart said they decide whether to take action on copyright infringement on a case-by-case basis, focusing on the egregious cases where they feel they must protect their trademark.

Hornett conducted research over the Internet to find Web production solutions, which led him to both NewTek and Ustream. Phillip Nelson, senior vice president of strategic development at NewTek in San Antonio, Texas, was on site to operate the TriCaster.

“The Miss Universe pageant wanted to let the fans go behind the ‘velvet rope,’ he said. “For example, The Coronation Ball is a VIP-only super premium event, with a guest list that includes kings and dignitaries from around the world. By streaming this VIP party and the ‘Crowning Moment,’ it was the first time fans were ever able to witness these occasions.”

Weighing only three pounds, TriCaster Broadcast integrates the company’s LiveSet studio technology, LiveText CG, switching of six serial digital cameras, audio mixing, dual virtual DDRs with live clip playback and widescreen mode, as well as Flash, Windows Media and VC-1 streaming support, among its features.

TriCaster is SD-only, [and ranges from $3,000-$12,000], but NewTek plans to introduce an HD version later this year. Hornett said they would then begin Webcasting in HD, and give viewers a choice of high or low-res online.

TriCaster was the only broadcast platform carrying Miss Teen USA, and Nelson’s crew used their own cameras. But for the Miss Universe preliminaries on August 16, he set up the TriCaster on NBC’s production truck, and just streamed the network’s video signal. While NBC wasn’t broadcasting that show, they were recording it live in order to cut together video packages for the August 23 telecast. During the preliminaries, the judges chose 15 finalists from among 83 contestants, and those 15 were announced during The 2009 Miss Universe show.

“During the pageant itself, as soon as NBC ‘went dead’ from its live broadcast, we took over with our Webcast and used our [IDX wireless and fixed analog] cameras to follow the winner, [Miss Venezuela, Stefania Fernandez], in her first walk and got her first interview as Miss Universe,” Nelson said.

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