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.

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  • 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:

    http://blog.streamingmedia.com/the_business_of_online_vi/201...

    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:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4bb1a862-1685-11e2-957a-00144feabd...

    "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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