Obama Makes Internet History: Inauguration Sets Record for Streaming Online Video

While more than a million people gathered on the National Mall to watch the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama, millions more peered at the screens of office computers and personal laptops, breaking records for views of live online video.

But despite the banner day for online video, the unprecedented demand for a live view of the event meant that some people had to frantically hunt down a television or wait several hours to catch Obama's speech.

"It was really frustrating," Heather Adams, 32, a publicist in Nashville, Tenn., told ABCNews.com.

After trying to access the live feeds on the Web sites of at least four or five media companies, she said she gave up and, ultimately, didn't watch anything until several hours later.

"My hope was to watch even a portion of it live streaming," Adams said, adding that her office had few televisions. "It was history in the making – you want to be a part of that experience … You just miss something when you don't watch it in the moment."

It was that hope – to share a pivotal moment in the country's history – that pushed the Internet to its limits and caused some Web sites to buckle under the pressure.

And in light of the day's successes and setbacks, analysts say the inauguration was a case study for online video and will influence how major live events are covered online in the future.

Significant Slowdowns Observed Across the Web

Shawn White, director of external operations for San Mateo, Calif.-based Keynote Systems, Inc., said that because of the huge demand for live video and audio, his company noted significant slowdowns on major media sites.

CBS, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, the Wall Street Journal and NPR were among the sites that seemed to struggle most with the unprecedented demand, he said.

Keynote monitors the performance of Internet and mobile networks and, White said, their data indicated that between 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET, the Internet slowed by 60 percent because of the volume of online video viewers.

Biggest Video Streaming Event Ever

"It was the most popular and significant online streaming event in the history of the Internet," White told ABCNews.com.

While the company has observed widespread Internet slowdowns before on major retail days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday or when a hurricane takes out part of the infrastructure, White said that no single event had ever made such an impact.

In the hours leading up to the inauguration, whitehouse.gov, which changed over to Obama material at 12:07 p.m., became 16 times slower than usual.

NPR was almost totally inaccessible. Between 11:30 a.m. and 12:20 p.m. ET, the site was 91 percent unavailable, White said.

Virtually every major media company offered visitors live feeds of the event and that's what made this event unique, White said. Delivering video is very network intensive, as it demands considerable amounts of bandwidth from both sites and servers.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...