The New York Times reported this week that, according to internal data, there were about 12.5 million online video streams served of Tuesday’s Michael Jackson memorial service, just among CNN.com, MSNBC.com and Yahoo! alone. And the Webcast occurred during online video’s “prime time” daytime hours. Given that people were in front of their computer screens while working between those three hours from 10am to 1pm PT, I’d say there’s little doubt this is the key factor in the large Webcast audience, rather than a mass choice of the computer monitor viewing experience over the television. And if not for the global recession and its high unemployment rates, the online audience might have been even bigger.
Mass appeal live events will always have people finding a “screen” to watch and share in the experience…but whether that viewing is online or with TV will likely depend upon what is most conveniently available.