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With Space Jump Broadcast, YouTube Adds a Touch of Crazy

Anyone needing further evidence that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is a Rule Breaker got it Sunday. Thanks to YouTube and sponsor Red Bull, more than 32 million watched as Austria's Felix Baumgartner performed a parachute jump from Earth's stratosphere. He landed safely despite, at one point, achieving Mach 1 in freefall:

In years past, a stunt like this would have merited a one-hour special on a major TV network. Publicists and ad executives at CBS, Walt Disney's ABC, or Comcast's NBC would have created a massive marketing campaign to lure in advertisers willing to pay a hefty premium for access to a captive audience.

Think of Geraldo Rivera's ill-fated 1986 broadcast, "The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults ," which, disappointingly, proved empty upon opening. Host station WGN nevertheless won big because of huge, hype-driven ratings.

Networks weren't involved this time, left out just as they were in 1974, when daredevil Evel Knievel attempted and failed to clear a jump of Idaho's Snake River Canyon. Promoters charged fees for broadcasting the event on closed-circuit television, or CCTV.

Red Bull veered some from Knievel's approach -- anyone with a Web connection was free to watch -- but the disruptive outcome appears to have been equally breathtaking. With one stunt, the energy drink supplier generated tens of millions of ad impressions, all without the aid of a major broadcast network.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Google and Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney and Google. The Fool has on Walt Disney. The Fool has stock on Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (3)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 15, 2012, at 3:39 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    UPDATE: YouTube repors 8 million concurrent users watched the jump while Akamai has figures that place the count at closer to 3 million:

    The revised numbers are fascinating, to be sure, in that they illustrate how easy is it to make something out of nothing.

    Yet this remains a brilliant coup for Red Bull and a loss for network TV. Think about the math. The average Super Bowl ad -- arguably still the most effective broadcasting advertising available -- costs about $0.03 per viewer.

    Unless Red Bull spent $100 million to sponsor the Stratos event (doubtful), it got an infinitely better deal for acces to 3 million prospective customers, and that's before you factor in the value of all the free media media mentions the company is enjoying today.

  • Report this Comment On October 15, 2012, at 5:29 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    UPDATE 2: I goofed. The jump *was* broadcast on traditional TV. From the Financial Times:

    "The stunt was also broadcast on traditional television, including on the Discovery Channel in the US and more than 40 other networks across 50 countries. A documentary about the stunt, two years in the making, is set to air later this year."

    I'll be curious to see how Discovery's ratings compare with YouTube's viewership data.

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