July 7, 2007 / 4:25 AM / 12 years ago

Live Earth may set new stage for Web viewing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Live Earth event on Saturday is set to reach millions more people than previous global productions with its reach boosted by the fast-growing power of Web video sharing and social networks.

An Aborigine performs at the opening of Australia Live Earth Concert at Aussie Stadium in Sydney July 7, 2007. REUTERS/Patrick Riviere

Organizers estimate television broadcasts of the live concerts staged to raise awareness about climate change will be available to up to 2 billion people although there is no estimate of how many people will actually watch the shows.

But that viewership may be trumped online where a generation hooked to social networks like MySpace and video site YouTube share ideas, photos and videos with their peers.

“Users can create their own program from all the show assets from around the world,” said Kevin Wall, Live Earth founder and CEO of Control Room which is producing the shows.

“They’re going to be able to share those experiences in a way that’s never ever been done in history.”

The global Live 8 concert to fight poverty in 2005 was the first major multi-venue event successfully streamed live with Time Warner Inc.’s AOL portal on the Web.

But Control Room, which produced Live 8, found it was the on-demand streams days after the event which had the most impact, especially after clips were passed round by e-mail.

Live 8 was streamed by users over 100 million times in six weeks. Live Earth is expected to be three times bigger.

“The viral natural of the streams at Live 8 really came off the back of that huge water cooler moment with people asking their friends if they’d seen a particular clip,” said Wall.

Live Earth is working with Microsoft Corp. Web portal MSN on live online broadcast. MSN will also be the only media platform to feature every minute of all the shows.

TV NOT ENOUGH

But in the age of Google Inc.’s YouTube, MSN and Control Room realize providing technology that helps friends share clips of their favorite Live Earth moments on other sites will be even more important than the live event.

“When you think about the control we’ve given the user, you could put together your own Live Earth show after the event,” said Joanne Bradford, chief media officer at MSN.

Organizers expect more than 80 percent of the viewership will be on-demand in the days following the July 7 event.

The live music performances by stars like the Police and Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as 60 original short films, will be edited into short clips by Control Room for easy sharing.

For example, a user could add a video clip of Madonna performing her specially penned song ‘Hey You’ to a blog or social network page and add a feature allowing visitors to buy a download with proceeds going to an environmental cause.

That flexibility has become possible with the artists agreeing to give up their rights without charge for the cause.

Though details are still being finalized, Wall expects Live Earth to have rights to show the clips for months afterwards.

Media experts say over-restrictive limitations over broadcast rights on on-demand viewing are fast becoming a thing of the past, particularly for an event which is trying to make a difference by getting in front of many eyeballs as possible.

Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at New York’s Fordham University, says video clips will show up eventually on YouTube or elsewhere outside of MSN, so it makes more sense to enable video sharing.

“The idea that any organization can keep something in popular culture to itself is 19th Century thinking,” he said.

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