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What you can learn about live streaming from Apple’s event last week

live streaming of apple's launchI’ve been holding onto my iPhone 4s for a long time. As September 9th approached I started dreaming of finally upgrading to the iPhone 6, or whatever Apple decided to call the next release of the iPhone series.

I read the rumors like everyone else, and when the day came, I planned on watching the event live. In fact, I was so anxious I decided to tune in over an hour early to watch a pre-event show on CNET live. Intellectually I knew they would have nothing new to say before the event, but I couldn’t help myself from trying to learn just a little bit more an hour before everyone else.


And that’s when this lesson begins.


If you don’t know CNET, they are a leading news provider on everything technology. They have weekly and daily video series on all sorts of topics from new printers to the latest video games. Their approach is usually a balanced combination of entertainment and information.


Excited the day had finally arrived, I went to CNET’s website a little early. On the live video blog page they offered a link to receive an email reminder for the start of the pre-show. I signed up and went about my business.


At the appropriate time I tuned in, only to find a static screen with a CNET logo and music. They had an integrated chat screen next to the video where I, and just over 13,000 other people, were commenting on everything Apple.


But then, the chat topics began to focus on the CNET video feed. It was clear from the feed and the comments that people were tuned in from all over the world. And most were watching the same logo and music as I was. Every once in a while someone would pipe in saying the music changed, or they heard someone saying “Check, check”.


I only saw the logo and occasionally changing music for about ten minutes. Once or twice it sounded like someone talking faintly in the back ground, but then it went away. So while people started out furiously discussing what Apple would do during the event, the conversation turned toward questions about the CNET video. Why wasn’t it working? Did CNET jump the gun? Did they really mean to start at the same time as the Apple event? And what was that voice we occasionally heard but couldn’t really understand? Were we missing something? Commenters began posting links to other sites where people could watch more about the event since CNET wasn’t working.


Around 13.5 minutes after the video was scheduled to start, the feed kicked in, but the music overwhelmed the person talking. Then it went back to the logo.


Apple’s event didn’t start for another hour and fifteen minutes. I’d been ready to stay and watch the CNET show, but all the issues made me want to leave their site and see if I could find other coverage. But I was multitasking at my computer, so I let it keep going.


Sixteen minutes in, I heard the “Check, Check” people had mentioned in the comments awhile before I heard them myself. I began to wonder whether I was getting some kind of delayed feed, because others began to comment on the people in the video. I still only saw a logo.


At about seventeen minutes the video started with the introduction of the people who’d be in the pre-show video. It started off the host saying it was 8:45 Pacific time. According to my watch it was actually just after 9 a.m. Pacific.


So now it seemed for sure I had at least a 16-17 minute delay on my feed. Not what I want when I’m so anxious to see the Apple event promptly at 10 a.m. Pacific. As the comments flew by (with now over 112,000 other viewers), I saw some people were having the same experience I was. And it didn’t seem to matter where in the world they were.


By the time the video finally kicked in, I’d lost my enthusiasm for the pre-show. I left it on in the background, but started paying attention to other things. I set a timer so I could start streaming the Apple event on time, directly from the Apple website.


And of course, if you tried to watch the event live or read any of the news reports afterward, you know what a disaster the Apple live streaming was. But I’ll spare you my play by play of fits and starts, Chinese translations and trucking schedules. If you want to know more about the streaming of the event (not the content), you can find out what happened and why on this blog by Dan Rayburn on This quote from him though, basically sums it up:


“Apple simply didn’t provision and plan for the event properly.”


Now I apologise for dragging you ever so slowly through my experiences trying to stream video related to the Apple event. But if you found yourself annoyed, bored, or tempted to skip to the end here to find the point, well, that is the point.


Most viewers aren’t going to have as much patience as I had with CNET or the many thousands had with Apple that day. Unless you are a big name demanding customer loyalty just because of who you are, people will turn you off and either find someone else covering the event, or decide to do something else. And if you aren’t an Apple or CNET, your reputation could be so damaged you won’t have an audience for another live event.


And even if you are Apple, such a disaster will have people talking about the disastrous live streaming, and not the newest product launches. Even if it includes the long awaited watch. In the long run it probably won’t matter to Apple, but it just might put a ding in pre-orders because not everyone could see the event and get excited. Maybe they’ll just wait, or decide to buy an Android phone instead.


With live streaming you only get one shot to get it right. If you don’t, getting it wrong might be all people remember.

Oliver Burt

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