MSN streams Live Earth to 8 million people

MSN said 15.4 million people watched the Live Earth concerts on its site over the weekend.

Microsoft Corp. says it set a record for streaming an online event to the most customers after offering the Live Earth concerts on MSN over the weekend.

About 8 million people watched at least parts of the concerts live over the 36 hours that the shows took place in ten locations around the world. At the peak, 237,000 people watched simultaneously, Microsoft said.

That's more than what Microsoft thinks is the previous most-watched online broadcast, the Live 8 concerts in 2005. According to AOL LLC, which streamed those ten concerts, 5 million people around the world watched live.

Teams in London, China and Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, supported the Live Earth streaming effort on MSN. Those workers were primarily content editors and programmers who were constantly updating the Web page with live and on-demand content as well as details about which artists were performing live and who was up next, said Lisa Gurry, MSN senior director at Microsoft.

Microsoft relied on its existing server farms around the globe to support the stream but beefed up those facilities in preparation, Gurry said. "We used a lot of our existing capacity and purchased additional to ensure we were prepared for the massive amount of traffic we were expecting," she said. Akamai Technologies Inc. also helped support the streaming, she said.

MSN signed the deal with Live Earth to stream the concerts last year and began preparations to support the event in February, she said.

MSN looked back to other popular events it has streamed, such as the NCAA Final Four basketball games, in order to estimate how many people might tune into Live Earth. Although that preparation paid off, MSN did find some surprises, Gurry said. MSN had expected that the U.S. show would produce the most traffic, but it came in fourth. The U.K. concert was the most viewed, followed by Australia, Germany and Japan, she said.

MSN expects viewers to continue to visit the site to watch archived video of the concerts on demand. In the week after the Live 8 concerts, AOL surpassed the number of live watchers, recording 8.5 million unique visitors who requested more than 25 million on-demand plays of the concerts.

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