Eight million people. That is the number that nobody really thinks about regarding Sunday’s amazing feat by Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team.
Instead most think about him breaking the sound barrier at Mach 1.2; or, the 24 miles he dove, or the 127,000 feet he ascended to for the dive. All of those figures are astonishing in their own right.
I was one of those eight million watching the live feed on the Internet at the Red Bull Stratos site where you can still watch video and admire the photo gallery of his accomplishment.
Why is the 8 million person figure important? American Idol gets more than 20 million viewers each week. The broadcast news programs (NBC, ABC, CBS) get between 6-8 million viewers per night.
So if I can watch High Definition, non-jerky, clear and crisp video of something occurring 24 miles above earth, does Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull Stratos represent the beginning of the end of broadcast television? The quality of the video I and 7,999,999 other people watched on Sunday, in real-time, was as good as or better than what I can get on my HD large screen television.
And I watched it on my MacBook Pro laying on the couch (yeah, a real couch potato during the event).
So while we can be amazed at what Red Bull Stratos and Felix Baumgartner did on Sunday, I think the unintended consequences might be the effect it has on traditional television.
I didn’t watch some jerky, fuzzy, continually-caching video, I watch HD, realtime video of a quality and clarity that television must fear.
And if you wonder if the cost was worth it for Red Bull, consider the Daily’s calculations:
That brings us to somewhere around $25 million — let’s say $15 million when you factor in sponsorship dollars from nine partners such as Zenith, “the official timekeeper.”
Even if these assumptions are way off, the sticker price is a pretty doable figure for a company that booked about $5.5 billion in revenue last year. Assuming a 10 percent profit margin, Red Bull would have to sell about 60 million cans of its super-juice to pay for the mission – roughly 3 percent of what it sold in the U.S. last year, according to Beverage Digest.
And what did it get in return?
Some 237,000 Twitter followers, 8 million live viewers and multiples of that who watched the replay and read the stories like this one.
For some perspective, consider the most recent Super Bowl drew a record 111 million viewers. With $15 million, Red Bull could have bought about four ad slots during that game.
But a Super Bowl buy would not have provided anywhere near the amount of emotional connection — a Holy Grail for marketers these days. The grainy footage of Baumgartner’s leap was an anachronistic display of daring in a world where NASA ties its astronauts to joysticks in Houston and sends high-def cameras into space.
I’d say Red Bull Stratos got a great return on investment, and perhaps started the demise of television as we know it. At least I hope so.