The Live Video Streaming Nightmare: What Do You Do When YouTube Won't Start? (And Lessons Learned)

What do you do if you go to start live video streaming of an event - and the streaming service you use won't start??? How do let people waiting to watch know? How do you fall back to another service?

Last month at the IETF 90 meeting in Toronto I experienced this nightmare of anyone doing live video streaming across the Internet. We had a presentation at noon on Thursday that we had widely publicized in social media and via email. The cameras were all set up. The producer was all ready to do the switching and encoding out to YouTube. Everything was good to go.

Then at 11:45am, I went to do my part in the process. I needed to login to the IETF YouTube account and basically click the "Start Streaming" button inside the "live event". At that point the YouTube servers would accept the encoded stream from the producer's gear and the stream would go live.

BUT... instead I got this message in a bright red bar across the top:

Ytl maintenance 500 The message read:

YouTube live is undergoing maintenance. Events cannot be created, started or stopped. Events already started will continue to stream uninterrupted.

Yes... we had no way to START the live video stream!

Over the next few minutes I kept refreshing that page but the warning stayed up there. I was getting rather nervous as the launch time approached!

Now, as it happened, we had already planned to have a second live video steam going out for the event through a different service,, for a different reason.

Why The IETF Uses YouTube For Live Video Streaming

To explain a bit more, we have been using Google's YouTube live video streaming for some of the larger IETF plenary sessions for five reasons:

1. The live video stream is available over both IPv4 and IPv6.

2. The stream works easily across pretty much all desktop and mobile devices.

3. Google's live streaming infrastructure seems able to scale to whatever capacity is needed.

4. The recording of the stream is immediately available after the event in the IETF's YouTube channel.

5. There is no cost for using the service beyond our local costs to produce the content (and no infrastructure that the IETF itself has to maintain).

Of these, really the most critical reason for using YouTube live streaming is the first - that it streams out over IPv6.

The IETF is the organization behind the IPv6 specification and has declared that all new IETF standards need to incorporate IPv6. Therefore in the spirit of "eating your own dog food" the IETF tries to use services that work over IPv6 whenever possible. Other live video streaming services have met the reasons 2-5 above, but not the #1 reason of working over IPv6.

We have specifically been using what Google used to call "YouTube Live" but now seems to just be calling "YouTube live events" versus Google's newer "Hangouts On Air (HOA)". These YouTube live events are events you schedule in advance and can use with advanced video encoders. An advantage is that these events provide streaming configuration info that I can provide in advance to the company running the audio and video at the event so that they can be prepared in advance. YouTube also helpfully provides a countdown timer for people visiting the event page. We haven't switched to using HOAs because they haven't yet provided the advance configuration information we want.

Anyway it has all worked well for live streaming out plenary sessions for a couple of years now.

Google Doesn't Live Stream Into Germany

However, as we discovered again that week.... Google will not stream live video into Germany! It seems Google has a legal dispute with a German intellectual property rights organization (GEMA) and Google has decided that rather than run into trouble with GEMA they will simply NOT allow live streaming into Germany.

So, alerted to this issue by some IETF remote participants in Germany who were unable to watch the live video streams of the technical plenary earlier in the week, we had arranged to also stream this Thursday session out over the Internet Society's account. Now, unfortunately it would not be available over IPv6 because still only works on legacy IPv4 networks, but did not have the streaming restrictions Google had and so at least people could view the stream in Germany. As a bonus, all the "subscribers" to the Internet Society's channel would also get notified and potentially be able to watch the stream - but the primary reason was so that people in Germany could watch the video stream.

The great thing about IETF meetings is that a massive amount of Internet connectivity is brought into the meeting hotel (because you have 1,200+ engineers who do most of their work across the Internet!) and so there are NO bandwidth problems for streaming. We could probably stream out to a dozen different live streaming services simultaneously if we set up our local software/equipment to do so.

Making The Alternate Stream The Primary Stream

The good news for us was that this "alternative" live video stream set up purely for viewers in Germany could now become the primary video stream. I rapidly updated the Google+ "event page" for this session to note the new URL for streaming and we spread the word through IETF social media channels and email lists. It wasn't 100% seamless but we were able to get people watching the live video stream.

We were also able to direct people to some of the other IETF remote meeting participation mechanisms, including audio streaming and a conferencing system called "Meetecho" that streamed the slides and lower webcam-quality video.

Throughout the hour-long event I kept checking the Live Control Room inside of YouTube to see if we could start the original stream, but we were never able to do so. A couple of times the red warning box went away, but we could not establish a connection from YouTube's streaming service to our equipment on the ground there in Toronto. Finally, as the time went on it became clear that the connection wasn't going to happen and so I just gave up trying.

The good news is that the producer was also making a local copy of the stream that we would be able to upload later to the IETF's YouTube channel.

Lessons Learned

I took away from this experience three primary lessons for all future live streaming sessions. Do note, too, that I think of these as generic lessons for all live streaming services and events. It happens that this time the failure was with Google's YouTube live events service, but the failure could have been with, Google's Hangouts On Air, Ustream or any of the many other live video streaming services out there.

1. Always Promote An Event Page Separate From The Streaming Service

We were able to rapidly redirect people to the new location of the live video stream in large part because we had been promoting the Google+ event page as the place to go to watch the live stream. We had promoted this on the IETF's Twitter account, Facebook page, Google+ page and also over various IETF email lists and on various other websites. All the promotion pointed people to this page.

So the good news was that all we had to do was update this page with the new info and people could switch over to watch the new stream.

We had NOT been promoting the direct YouTube link for the stream. Had we done so, we could have still updated the page through editing the description of the YouTube video and/or leaving comments - but it would not have necessarily been as easy for visitors to see.

Promoting a separate page was a deliberate choice I made based on some previous bad experiences with live streaming where I had to stop a streaming session and restart with a brand new URL. For that reason I've been promoting a separate page.

In fact, for the IETF Plenary sessions, we've been promoting a separate page under IETF control on the IETF website - - where we can embed the live stream video and also keep the page updated. At the IETF meeting it is possible for me or someone else to easily go in and update that page. Plus it is a very simple URL that we can promote widely.

I don't honestly remember why we didn't use the page to stream out this Thursday morning sponsor presentation other than that the decision to live stream the session happened the day before and for whatever reason we went with a Google+ Event page as the page to promote.

Next time we'll probably promote the page.

The key point is that you have a page separate from the live streaming service where you can post updates.

2. Have An Alternate Live Stream Either Active Or Ready To Go

As I mentioned previously, in this case we happened to be set up with a second live stream out through purely because we wanted to test the live streaming into Germany. Had remote IETF participants in Germany not asked about this after being unable to view the earlier technical plenary, we wouldn't have had this second stream active.

Next time, we will have a second live streaming service either active or at least on standby ready to go.

At the IETF meetings, we have the luxury of having an insane amount of bandwidth and so there are not the typical connectivity constraints you find in meeting venues. The software and equipment our producer was using could go out to multiple live streaming services. There is really no reason we can't run multiple streams.

For the IETF we still have the IPv6 requirement, which unfortunately does not yet meet. However, it occurred to us after the session that we could have streamed to a Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) as that would have also streamed out over IPv6 in addition to IPv4. Of course, that would mean relying on two Google services and so you run the risk of having the technical issues affecting one live streaming service also affecting the other - plus there was the whole "streaming into Germany" thing.

We'll definitely keep investigating what other live streaming services may work over IPv6. There are a good number of live video streaming services out there and the number seems to be growing. The company producing the video stream for us also had their own streaming server that we might be able to use as a backup, too. And, yes, we can also have an IPv4-only streaming service available if everything else falls through.

Now, in non-IETF environments where I do have to worry about bandwidth constraints, I will at least have a plan for how I can rapidly spin up a second stream if the first one fails. That's really the key point. What is Plan B and how fast can you make it happen?

3. Have Access To Relevant Social Media Accounts And Other Methods Of Letting People Know

This is perhaps a subset of Lesson #1, but another critical part of our success in redirecting people to the second live stream was that we had access to the relevant social media accounts and other means of spreading the word. I had access to the IETF Google+ page and could make the updates there. Someone else was able to send out a tweet with the new link to the live stream. An email was sent out to all attendees and to other relevant email lists letting them know about the link.

The key point is that when we updated the event page with the new information, we could let people know!

In The End...

... the session was streamed live across the Internet. It was recorded and made available for later viewing. And... we learned a few lessons to make sure our live streaming infrastructure is more resilient next time so that this potential "nightmare" becomes nothing more than just a minor bump and redirection.

What about you? If you do live video streaming what steps have you taken to ensure you can keep streaming in cases like this?

I also recorded an audio commentary about this situation:

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What Is A TLD? gTLD? ccTLD? newgTLD? IDN?

What is a "TLD"? How does a "gTLD" differ from a "ccTLD"? And what is a "newgTLD" all about? These are some of the questions I've encountered as I've been talking to people both in person and via the FIR podcast about the "newgTLD" program that is bringing hundreds of new top-level domains into the domain name system (DNS). To have an article I can point to, here are the basic things you need to know (and ICANN regulars will realize I am glossing over some of the nuances... but I'm trying to provide a simple view):
TLD = Top-Level Domain

Whenever you use a domain name, in a web address(URL), email address, or wherever, it ends in a "top-level domain" or "TLD". This is the last part of the name. We often thing of .COM, .ORG, .NET, etc., as in:

  • www.disruptiveconversations.COM
  • www.forimmediaterelease.BIZ
  • internetsociety.ORG

(I've capitalized and made the TLDs bold here, but in the DNS case doesn't matter.)

TLDs are broadly classified into two categories:

  1. generic top-level domains (gTLDs)
  2. country code top-level domains (ccTLDs)

The entity responsible for the administration of these TLDs in the "root" of the Domain Name System (DNS) is the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) that is currently operated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). You can see the full list of current TLDs at:
Second-Level Domain

The next part of the domain name to the left of the TLD (and separated by a dot) is the "second-level domain". These are the domains that you are typically able to register with a registrar. Examples include:


The next part of the domain name to the left ("www" in the first two examples above) would be called the "third-level domain", and so on.

gTLD = Generic Top-Level Domain

Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are TLDs that are not tied to any specific country and are "generic" in terms of being able to be used (in theory, anyway) by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world. The "original" TLDs such as .COM, .ORG, .NET, .GOV, .MIL are all classifed as "generic TLDs"[1]. There were a couple of rounds of "expansion" of the gTLDs that brought the total to 22 gTLDs prior to the "newgTLD" expansion currently underway

ccTLD = Country Code Top-Level Domain

Country code top-level domains(ccTLDs) are two letter TLDs that are assigned to countries based mostly on the ISOC 3166 list of country codes. Some countries have chosen to operate their ccTLD exclusively for domains within their country or geographic territory. Some do not allow people to register "second-level domains" under the TLD and instead require people to register third-level domains under one of several different second-level domains. For example, the .UK domain as to date required registrations to be under domains such as "" and "", basically duplicating part of the original gTLD scheme inside their ccTLD.

Many ccTLDs have chosen NOT to restrict their ccTLD to people in their country and have in fact marketed their domains very widely encouraging everyone to use them. Some prominent examples of this include Columbia(.CO), Montenegro(.ME), Tuvulu(.TV), Federated States of Micronesia(.FM) and many more.

Essentially, any time you are using a two-letter TLD, it is a ccTLD for some country. (With a few exceptions.)

newgTLD = Top-Level Domain

After many years of discussion, ICANN's board voted in 2011 to allow the creation of new generic TLDs using almost any text string (and in multiple character sets) and began the "newgTLD" program. This resulted in 1,930 applications by various companies to operate new gTLDs. These newgTLDs are now being rolled out in phases and people are able to register second-level domains under many of these domains. More newgTLDs are being made available pretty much every week - and the expansion will continue for many months and years ahead of us. I recently wrote on CircleID about how to keep track of all the newgTLDs.

At a technical level, "new gTLDs" are effectively the same as "gTLDs"... the designation is just really that these new gTLDs are coming out in this current round of expansion.

IDN = Internationalized Domain Name

The original TLDs were all in the ASCII character set, but over time ICANN decided to allow the creation of "internationalized domain names"(IDNs) that use other character sets such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, etc. The first IDN for a country code TLD appeared in 2010 and the newgTLDs contain many IDNs. (In fact, the very first of the "newgTLDs" were four IDNs.)

These are the basic terms you will hear for domain names when you are talking about the newgTLD program. There are a host of other issues, topics and discussion points that can be discussed in future posts... but I wanted to get these basic terms out there as a baseline.

Comments are, of course, welcome.

[1] - Some of these "generic" TLDs are now formally classified by ICANN as "sponsored" when the registration of domain names is restricted to a particular type of user. For example, registrations in .GOV are restricted to US government entities and registrations in .MUSEUM are restricted to museums. In these cases there is a sponsoring organization or government who manages the TLD.

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Crossing 300,000 Views Of My CircleID Articles

I was pleased to note recently that the number of views to my various posts on CircleID had crossed over the 300,000 mark and that along the way I'd entered the top 20 contributors to the site in terms of viewed articles. Not that viewer metrics are anything I get very excited about... but it was just kind of cool to see that mark being passed.

As I wrote about back in November 2012 and have also spoken about on past FIR podcast episodes, CircleID is one of the sites that I watch to keep up on what is happening with the infrastructure that powers the Internet, as well as Internet policy issues and, in recent years, the evolution of the "new generic top-level domains (newgTLDs)". I enjoy reading many of the people who write there - and have learned a good bit in the process. There are a lot of contributors to the site (and anyone can sign up to contribute) and so you get to hear many different voices, including some, of course, with whom you may not agree - but that is good and helpful.

Beyond simply visiting the CircleID website, you can follow the site as @circleID on Twitter and via the CircleID Facebook page as well as good old RSS.

I'd highly recommend CircleID for people interested in the evolution of the Internet!

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What Happens When All Communication From A Country Is Disrupted?

What happens when all communications into and out of a country is completely disrupted? We're seeing that right now with Syria. As I wrote on CircleID yesterday, all Internet access is down... and reports say that all communication via cell phones and landlines has also been terminated.

What happens when a country just completely... drops... off...

It's scary, really, to think about. And we're seeing it play out right now. The links are still all down.

My thoughts are definitely with the people there in the country. I hope things are okay... and that the connections get restored soon.

Crazy times...

PSY, MC Hammer, the American Music Awards - and The Amazing Power Of The Internet

Psy hammer 1Seriously? The American Music Awards closing out the evening with a song sung almost entirely in Korean?


Let's just reflect up on that for a moment. The American Music Awards... ending with a song sung...

... in Korean!

A song where the only words that the vast majority of the audience actually understood were "Heyyyyyy, sexy lady!" and "Gangnam Style". (Well, and the overlay of MC Hammer's "Too Legit To Quit" song last night.)

But the rest of the song was entirely in Korean.

How cool is that?

Forget for a moment what you may think about the actual "Gangnam Style" song from PSY and whether you love or absolutely hate the "horse dance" thing he does. Forget about whether you think the whole meme is overdone with everyone and their brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents and babies (and animals) doing remakes and paradoies of the song. Forget about whether you are so sick of it and hope you never hear about it again.

Forget about all of that.

Think of the moment. Think of the fact that a 40-year-old awards show... again, the American Music Awards... closed its event with a song by a Korean performer sung almost entirely in Korean.


And we see here again the amazing and awesome power of the Internet and how it has fundamentally changed the ways in which we communicate.

Without the Internet, PSY might have been extremely popular within Korea... but probably would have remained almost unknown outside the country.

Instead, because of the Internet his music has been seen and heard 100s of millions of times in basically every part of the world. And here he is is... on stage with MC Hammer closing out this award show.

I love it! Even as I am not personally a particular fan of the song (nor did I watch the awards show)... I delight in the fact that here in the US we celebrated that song.

Score another one for the power of the Internet to unite us all and enable us to experience the creativity that is in all countries and among all people... and in all languages.

Very cool to see!

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Want To Watch Live U.S. Election 2012 Coverage Online Tonight?

VotingTonight we have a truly remarkable number of options for watching coverage of the results of the U.S. election. GigaOm had a great post up this morning listing a wide range of sites:

It's fascinating to look down that list. I grew up in the 1970's and 80's when we really only had 3 TV networks in the US on which to watch election results. Now we have a HUGE number of options. Consider that in this list we have:

  • Multiple sites doing live streaming over YouTube.
  • Multiple sites doing live streaming over Ustream.
  • Some sites doing live streaming from their own sites.
  • Many sites doing streaming out to their mobile apps for iOS and Android.
  • Twitter setting up a micro-site to show election-oriented trends and tweets (and being used by many of the other sites, too, I am sure).

More than that, look at the different sources of these live streams:

  • "Traditional" TV networks such as CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS (with six live streams!), and Fox
  • Newer TV media like C-SPAN, Univision, MSN News, Al Jazeera and the Comedy Channel
  • "Newspapers" streaming video such as the Wall St. Journal, New York Times and Washington Post
  • Newer websites such as Politico and the Huffington Post
  • An independent group watching voting problems

This list, too, is just the sites that GigaOm found and felt should be included. There are probably a hundred other lists floating around on other sites that include other livestreams not mentioned here. Plus the many sites that will be doing "liveblogging"... plus the sites livestreaming audio-only... plus the many mobile apps that people are using on their smartphones... plus the zillion other social networks. Mobile-photo-darling Instagram even got in the game by partnering with NBC to produce:

And all of these are (generally) available to people all across the world, not just in the US. There is no limit according to geography.

It's an amazing testament to the power of the Internet to disrupt traditional media and to encourage innovation ... and to potentially democratize the creation of content by allowing anyone to get in the business of streaming media.

Wherever you are tonight... as long as you can get Internet connectivity, you will have the ability to watch the US election returns!

I'm looking forward to tonight... and will probably be watching several of these streams as we look forward to learning who wins the election not only for President but also for the Congressional and local races as well.

Enjoy the evening!

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CircleID - A News Site About Internet Infrastructure, Domain Names, new gTLDs, more...

CircleidWant to stay up on what is happening with the underlying infrastructure of the Internet? Or perhaps more interested in what is happening with domain names or the new "generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)"? Curious about Internet governance issues? policy issues?

For all of those topics, and many more, a site I've come to rely on is

It is a "news" site, but one that is very focused on what is happening in the underlying infrastructure that powers the Internet - and from both a technical and business/marketing point-of-view. There are technical articles and blog posts focused on topics such as IPv6, DNS security, cybersecurity, cloud computing, etc. - and there are more business-focused articles and blog posts talking about the business behind domain names or the new generic TLDs.

For marketers and communications professionals these latter topics are quite important - there is much going on right now in that space that will define what the future of domain names will look like.

I should note that Circle ID is a community-driven site and anyone can register and sign up to contribute. If you want to publish articles in this space - or have a client for whom this would be a logical audience to write - the folks behind CircleID are always open to new contributors.

To that end, I should note that I do write at CircleID from time to time and have republished some of my Disruptive Telephony posts there in the past.

It's a great resource, and one that many of you may find useful to track what is happening behind the curtains of the Internet.

P.S. Naturally CircleID is also on Twitter and Facebook, too, and has a host of RSS feeds.

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Why World IPv6 Launch Matters to Communicators / PR / Marketing

Worldipv6launch 256With World IPv6 Launch happening last week, what does something as technical and geeky as "IPv6" have to do with people in public relations (PR) and marketing? Why should communicators really care about the underlying "plumbing" of the Internet?

As a user of a browser, the answer is that right now you as a communicator probably don't have to worry all too much... odds are that your operating system and browser will all work just fine with IPv6 once you have IPv6 connectivity from your Internet Service Provider(ISP).

However, as a PUBLISHER of content (ex. websites, videos, images, audio, articles, etc.) out on to the Internet, communicators NEED to understand what is going on with the transition to IPv6 - and how you can enable your content to be available to people over IPv6. To put the reasons succinctly, they are:

  • Speed - As areas of the world run out of IPv4 addresses, networks will be established with IPv6. Those networks will have "gateways" to content that is still on IPv4, but those gateways will inherently add latency / delays to people getting your content. If you want people to get to your content as quickly as possible (and to get to your content versus other content, since speed will increasingly count in search results), you'll want to make it available over both IPv4 and IPv6.

  • Access to new/emerging markets - Best estimates are that around 2 billion people are currently on the Internet. That leaves 5 billion more who will be coming online in the months and years ahead. Odds are that a large number of those will wind up on IPv6 networks.

  • Freedom / control - As IPv4 addresses continue to run out, some ISPs may put their entire networks behind a single public IPv4 address using something called "Carrier-Grade NAT (CGN)" or "Large Scale NAT (LSN)". The challenge for communicators is that these ISPs will then be in a position to be "gatekeepers" and either deny access to your content - or to charge customers, or YOU, for access to that content. Moving to IPv6 alone won't entirely prevent this from happening, but it will remove "IPv4 exhaustion" as an excuse for ISPs to do this.

  • IPv6 is the "new normal" - The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) recently issued a statement that pretty much ensures that all new standards will require IPv6... and you can expect new tools and services to emerge that are based on IPv6. Sooner or later you're going to need to have your content available on IPv6... why not be a leader instead of a laggard?

As to the "HOW", we've put together an IPv6 guide for content providers over at the Internet Society Deploy360 Programme that walks through the steps you need to consider.

In my recent reports into the For Immediate Release podcast I have covered this in some detail. First, in FIR 653, I spoke about WHY it is important for communicators / PR / marketing to understand what is going on with IPv6:

And then in FIR 654 I spoke at more length about HOW communicators can IPv6-enable their content, essentially covering the steps in the Deploy360 guide for content providers:

The reality is that the Internet of the future will be based on IPv6 - you as a computer need to understand how you can make your content available over this newer Internet.

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Would You Buy a ".blog" Domain Name?

DotblogIf you could get a domain name ending in ".blog" for your blog site, would you buy one?

Over on Domain Incite, Kevin Murphy reports on the first applicant to publicly state that they are applying for ".blog" as part of the massive generic top-level domain (gTLD) expansion by ICANN. Murphy expects that ".blog" will probably be the most heavily contested new gTLD, meaning that multiple companies will be vying to be the registry for ".blog". He points out:

Media analysts NM Incite (great name) tracked 181 million blogs in 2011, up by about 25 million from 2010. A gTLD that could grab just 1% of that business would still be a nice little earner.

I'm not sure, myself. I remain rather skeptical that people will break out of their reliance on ".com" and go for all these other gTLDs. We've seen some of the existing gTLDs like ".biz" and ".pro" that haven't really gone anywhere. (In fact, the only .biz address I personally am aware of is the FIR podcast.)

Still, with a range of more gTLDs perhaps we finally will see people starting to use and accept other domain endings beyond .com/.org or the various country codes.

But would I register ""? or ""?

Probably not, given that I already own the .com and .org variants on the names... although admittedly "" would be tempting purely because I do own .com/.org/.me/etc. and could see that one fitting in well with my "personal brand" online. Probably not for my other sites because I already have established names for them.

If I were crazy enough to start up another new blog, the ".blog" gTLD might be interesting... although to be honest I find the name "blog" to be a bit tired these days. I tend to talk more about my "sites" versus my "blogs" as the difference between what is considered a "blog" and what is considered a regular "web site" seems to get increasingly narrow. I'm not sure if I would want a new site to be labeled as a "blog".

What about you? If a ".blog" becomes available sometime in 2013, would you buy one?

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The Super Simple Secret to Stopping Online Piracy (Hint: It's not SOPA)

Memo To MPAA and other SOPA Proponents: Yesterday was a perfect example of the failure of your current business models to meet consumer demands - and the reason why there is online piracy. It also shows you the super simple secret to stopping almost all piracy.

Let me explain.

As probably most people here in the US know, yesterday we had the US football playoff championships. Even if you aren't a football fan, it was hard to escape the media attention. Particularly here in the "Patriots country" of northern New England.

While I don't really follow football, I do like to tune in around the playoffs to watch the final games. However, we don't have cable TV so I had no way to watch our local CBS station.

Here's the fundamental problem:


None. Zip. Nada.

No CBS websites had a live stream of the game, nor any other legitimate websites I could find. If I tried to go to the NFL Networks' website and pay to watch a live stream, I got this message:


Yes, indeed...

NFL Network Online is not available in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and any U.S. territories, possessions and commonwealths (including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

MPAA and SOPA proponents, are you paying attention?

I was trying to give an entertainment network money.

I had my wallet open. Credit card out.

And you failed me.

Now, in my case yesterday, I drove across town and watched the game at my brother-in-law's house. But had that not been an option and had I really cared enough, I would have gone online to one of the many live streaming sites and sought out a live stream that someone else was running.

Yes, that "someone else" might be someone who is taking a web cam, pointing it at the TV and using one of the many live streaming apps to send their stream out on the web.

It would have been someone "pirating" the live broadcast of the event.

And I might have had to listen to whomever it was swearing at the screen, eating chips and guzzling beer.

But I would have been watching the game!

Because you, the entertainment industry, couldn't give it to me in the way I wanted.

Artificial Scarcity In An Era Of Abundance

Now, I completely understand why I get this NFL Network Online error message. The NFL has all its various contracts with TV and cable companies where those companies pay the NFL a zillion dollars so that the NFL can then in turn pay the ginormous salaries of the players, the owners and everyone else involved.

The only way the NFL can get the income they need to sustain their business model is to create conditions of artificial scarcity.

The NFL, as a content provider, needs to provide exclusivity to a content distribution provider so that that distribution provider can charge whatever exorbitant rates it needs to charge to cover its investment of a zillion dollars.

The distribution provider, CBS, in this case, needs to recoup its investment somehow... and so it then has contracts with cable and satellite TV companies where it provides exclusivity for them so that they can then charge their own high rates to pay for their fees.

In this case, though, the content distribution provider, CBS, failed to provide a way for a consumer like me to legitimately/legally obtain the content.

The end content distribution networks, the cable companies and the satellite TV companies, also failed to provide a way for a consumer like me to legally obtain the content. I can't simply call up my local cable TV provider on a Sunday and say, "oh, hey, can you hook up my cable this afternoon so that I can watch the game? and then disconnect it after that?" And they have no way for me to simply view their content online over the Internet unless I am actually a paying subscriber (which again, I'm not).

The content provider, the NFL, similarly failed to provide a way for a consumer like me to legally obtain the content when the content distribution provider offered no option.

So, then, as a non-subscriber to a cable or satellite network, I really have only three options:

  1. Forget about the content and go do or view something else;

  2. Go somewhere where I can view the content; or

  3. Become a pirate. Watch the content on an illegal source.

And while I wrote here about wanting to watch a sports game, you can go back through my text and substitute:

  • watching the latest movie;
  • watching a hit TV show;
  • reading the latest novel of a best-selling author;
  • listening to a live concert;
  • listening to the latest album of a band.

The fundamental problem with this business model based on artificial scarcity is that is is completely broken in an era of abundance.

I don't need to subscribe to cable TV to get most of the news and entertainment that I want to watch. I don't need to sit in a movie theatre to see the latest movie. I don't need to go to a bookstore to buy the latest novel. I don't need to go to a music store to buy the latest album.

The Internet has severely disrupted all of those "traditional" channels and we now have an abundance of different channels and different ways to obtain our content and entertainment.

Propping Up Scarcity

What we are seeing with the proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation here in the US is

the failure of the entertainment industry to adapt to the new consumer preferences.
Rather than spend their millions to figure out how to evolve and meet consumer demands, the industry would rather spend their millions to reduce/remove/eliminate/kill all those other distribution channels.

They want to prop up scarcity.

Keep their business model alive.

That's what this is all about. It's not about "breaking the Internet". It's about putting the proverbial genie back in the bottle and somehow trying to get back to an era when the entertainment industry could be in control of all the distribution channels and thereby charge whatever they felt like charging.

In the end, it will most likely fail. (Assuming we all in the Internet space continue to pay attention to what is going on.)

But the battle will be hard-fought largely because of the insane amount of lobbying money and people engaged with manipulating the political process.

The Super Simple Secret To Stopping Online Piracy

If you've read this far, you probably already know the simple "secret" to stopping almost all online piracy:

Give people a way to get...

the CONTENT they want

in the CHANNEL they want

at a reasonable COST.

That's it.

The vast majority of people, even those "young kids" people say want everything for free, will pay when a legitimate channel is made available.

Don't believe it?

Consider iTunes. Think of how many millions and millions of songs are being purchased every single day. Because Apple provided a very simple and easy way for people to legally obtain the music content people wanted in the channel they wanted (on their iPods/music players) at a cost that people felt was reasonable.

Now, if you go back a few years, the music industry wasn't too happy with Apple's move and did all they could to fight that move.

Apple understood: give people a way to get the music they want in a downloadable form at a reasonable price.

Sure, there's still probably online music piracy going on - there are some people who will never pay and want everything for free. But for the vast majority of people, why do they need to bother with a pirate music site when a legal download is only a click - and a buck - away?

Amazon's been similarly disrupting the publishing and book distribution business for years now - and now is doing it again with ebooks. Netflix and Hulu have been disrupting the movie and video distribution business.

They get it.

The MPAA and other SOPA proponents seem to be missing the point.

Entertainment industry folks - want to stop almost all online piracy?


Figure out a way to get us the content we want in the channels we want at a cost that works for us.

Figure out how someone like me can decide to watch a sports game and go online and pay to view it live. Figure out how to let someone watch the latest TV episode of a popular series either live or shortly thereafter. Figure out a way that someone can watch the newest movie in their big huge home theatre on the day of release. Oh, and figure out how to do this globally.

Do that and probably 99% of the online piracy you are currently whining about will simply... go away.

Does that trash most of your existing business models?

Absolutely. I'm not saying this is easy.

I'm only saying that the solution from a consumer point-of-view is simple.

Yes, some of the jobs and companies (and even industries) of today may be lost... but new ones will be created. Yes, the transition will be extremely hard on some people. Transitions always have been. But sticking your head in the sand and pretending the transition isn't happening will not make it go away. It will only make the transition harder on the people in those jobs and companies.

Stop spending your millions on lobbying for profoundly stupid legislation like SOPA/PIPA and instead spend it on figuring out how to reinvent the way you connect with consumers in the world of today.


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