U2/YouTube's Concert: Big Numbers, But What Else?

Ten million viewers for one episode on a U.S.-based cable network might have a cable TV program executive singing "Even Better Than The Real Thing."  That would be a very high number.


For a broadcast network, the song might be "Vertigo" -- nice, but your head might be spinning a bit with people telling you could have done better.

U2's free live online concert from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena pulled in 10 million global views on its You Tube-branded site.

While this is an outstanding Internet number -- a record on YouTube -- it might make YouTube executives yawn a bit.

That's because, on any given day, YouTube cranks out one billion video streams, just 1% of its overall rough potential. All this says something about where YouTube might be going, and maybe U2 as well: video growth seems unlimited.



If you wonder why traditional TV programmers are nervous about the digital future -- this is the reason. Remember there wasn't any traditional media such as TV that went to promote this two and a half hour concert - but a lot of digital and word of mouth marketing.

Traditional TV marketers might be thinking - how can I learn from this? Well, it would be good to have a high-profile multi-generational rock band for starters. Free is also a good lure. U2 selling its own branded stuff on its YouTube-branded site seems to be the only real ad-supported revenue at work

What did U2 gain? Tremendous publicity value for the band, at a digital moment when music performers are being increasingly challenged.

If online viewers paid $1, that would have given YouTube/U2 a smooth $10 million. Around 10 million viewers for an episode on a broadcast network might yield around $5 million or so in national TV ad sales. (Of course, one needs to factor in that the concert -- and the views -- were distributed globally, not just  to the U.S. base.)

Ten million of anything in a fractionalized media world will get noticed. But when something focuses mostly on publicity/promotional value, it gets fuzzy. (Maybe DVD sales or CD sales will change the equation).

For most of the traditional media, however, anything less than, say, $1 million in real cash for all efforts like this might have them singing "Sunday Bloody Sunday."



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