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Wednesday
Mar052008

Oprah is the Real Social Network

A lot of new internet TV station startups are in the wind these days and there's a question about how they can scale their broadcasts. Today's state of the art shows you can't yet mimic the reach of broadcast TV with internet tech. But as Oprah proves, you can still capture a lot of eyeballs, if you are Oprah...

Oprah drew a stunning 500,000 simultaneous viewers for an Eckhart Tolle webcast. Move Networks and Limelight Networks hosted the "broadcast" where traffic peaked at 242Gbps. A variable bitrate scheme was used so depending on their connection, a viewer could have seen 150Kbps or as high as 750Kbps.

Dan Rayburn thinks 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.

To handle more users comments suggested capping the bitrate at 300K, using P2P streaming, or using a CDN more specialized in live streaming.

I went to Oprah's website and was a bit shocked to find she didn't have full blown social network available. Can you imagine if she did? Oprah's army would seem to be a highly desirable bunch to monetize.

Reader Comments (6)

My wife was so excited to watch this webcast. I was amazed to see the quality at the start of the webcast (750kbs) but then had to play tech support when the video became choppy and unwatchable. They definitely did not do a good job of estimating or managing quality as a whole. Don't mess with the power of Oprah :)

November 29, 1990 | Unregistered CommenterJodyM

Wouldn't multicast be perfect for this kind of thing? I know the BBC is trying to convince isps in england to support multicast by providing their radio at a higher quality but only over multicast. I also remember something about ipv6 support an improved multicast. But I don't know much about that.

-Francis

November 29, 1990 | Unregistered CommenterFrancis

I'm no expert, but multicast looks like the "solution" for live broadcasting.

For archived content, a bit-torrent-like distribution should be good. Connections would be routed to the closest node, and there should be plenty of seeders. If a show was popular, you might even connect directly to your neighbours. With some intelligent routing, you could easily get a high download speed. The ISP's could even have their own automatic caching system, that seeds the streams to local users. Then they wouldn't have to pay for the bandwith to other ISP's.

November 29, 1990 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Dan Rayburn is completely wrong, the viewing problems experienced during the first Oprah web-event were due to a software bug, there was capacity for three times the audience that were watching.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shelly-palmer/oprahs-webcast-stateof_b_90386.html

November 29, 1990 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Interesting post. Thanks.

I found this bit on their streaming approach interesting:
Move Networks does not use ordinary streaming techniques to move video around the Internet. Their platform uses a client-side request schema that is more related to downloading little .gif files than it is to playing back streaming video packets from a server.

And the actual problem:
What actually happened? According to an executive closely tied to the project, they were up to about 800,000 users when a logical error in the caching servers caused the system to crash. It is important to understand that the only way to ever find a coding error like this is to put a system truly under stress. You can't simulate 800,000 users in the lab, you need to play with live ammo. Kudos to Oprah and her team for pushing the envelope this hard.

The crash was not caused by a lack of bandwidth, an overwhelming number of users or any infrastructure issues at all. It was a simple coding error - nothing more. The error was identified and is now fixed.

Been there. Sucks not to be able to completely test a system and then be fingered for blame on the things you couldn't even test. People tend to lose sight of how well it actually did work. Congratulations.

November 29, 1990 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Hoff

Well, I would say i feel taht facebook and myspace are more than just Oprah!
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November 29, 1990 | Unregistered Commenterfarhaj

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