The space jump’s stunning YouTube victory

Felix Baumgartner outside his capsule at the top of the world

Felix Baumgartner outside his capsule “at the top of the world”

The numbers are in from Sunday’s awesome space jump, and the message is another warning sign for one-to-many media. The event was “televised” live on The Discovery Channel and Velocity, for a combined rating of 5.2 million viewers. That’s a record for Discovery, by the way. It’s the highest rated weekend, non-prime time program in network history. Good for them.

However, another record was set over at YouTube, which, at peak, had 8 million simultaneous one-to-one 1080p HD streams.

I’m sure that the Red Bull team that pulled this off could have exceeded these numbers by providing the feed to CNN, Fox and the networks.

But they didn’t, and the end result is a chilling harbinger of things to come. Why? Because businesses with money, thanks to the good old personal media revolution-cum-great horizontal, can do what they want in terms of distributing the content they own and produce. Make no mistake, that 8 million number is S‑T-A-G-G-E-R-I-N‑G, because all of those people were able to watch it wherever they happened to be due to the one-to-one nature of the Web. You can say what you want about the efficiency of broadcasting, but today’s world is increasingly about individual choice and decreasingly about being forced into somebody else’s “schedule.” One of the Twitter comments during the jump was that those viewers on TV had to deal with commercials, while those of us who chose YouTube got to experience every single gripping moment.

And don’t be so sure that Google will follow the broadcast model downstream.

These are the kinds of thoughts that get me into trouble, but, folks, the evidence of change continues to mount, while the TV industry continues to crank out the kind of hubris that belongs in the first stage of grieving (TVB’s As the Ad Industry Envisions All That Is Bright and Shiny, Local TV Broadcasters Are Lighting the Way).

I’m afraid it’s just not going to end well for the people and the industry I love so dearly.

Tension, anxiety, then relief

Felix Baumgartner safe at home

The shot that’s destined to become the iconic photo of the space jump

I was 23 years old when man first walked on the moon, and I’d forgotten the emotions of that event until Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped today from a capsule 128,000 feet in the air. My heart rate was way up, as I sat in front of my computer watching it unfold live via YouTube. I was almost gasping for air as he went into a spin during the free fall and pure adrenaline was controlling every system of my body. And finally, there was the flush of a great chemical release that replaced it all the moment his feet met his shadow right here on planet Earth. There are so many winners here that it’s hard to state them all.

Baumgartner, of course, for becoming the latest in a long line of space heroes. As @lukepeters Tweeted: “I’m amazed Felix managed to get out of that capsule considering how big his balls are.” We love heroes, and it will be fun to watch the coming media glom.

Science for what it provided and what it gained from this historical first. @jeffjarvis and others engaged in a discussion of whether this kind of free fall could have saved the astronauts from the shuttle Columbia when it exploded upon re-entry in 2003. Jeff Tweeted: “Consensus of answers: This would not have helped shuttle victims as their vehicle was going too fast & no time.” Science learns from science, and this mission will doubtless provide important data for tomorrow.

Red Bull for sponsoring the event. Will this be the start of commercial space missions? Will we see a competition, of sorts. @dansinker Tweeted: “And thus began the energy-drink arms race that culminated in the Brawndo Sun-Jump tragedy of 2174.”

YouTube for blowing away its previous record in providing flawless 1080p live streaming to more than 8 million viewers, an “audience” 16 times bigger than anything it had done before. Kudos, and call me amazed. This will likely be the first time a streaming event beat a television (one-to-many) event.

And then there’s the sheer magnitude of sharing this historical event with friends via Twitter. Somebody asked if Evel Knievel would have been bigger in the YouTube era. Good question, and I’m not sure. This was the real deal of second screen sharing, and I can’t wait until the numbers come in. It may not have been the Oscars or the MTV awards, but for utter drama, it was amazing.

But the drama of the event tops my list. Baumgartner’s contact back at Mission Control was 84-year old Joe Kittinger, the retired Air Force colonel whose record Baumgartner was trying to break. I doubt NASA would have permitted such, but the emotional bond between the two was evident, especially as Kittinger turned Baumgartner over to “the guardian angels.”

I’m betting on this for the next Bond movie in four years.