Bumpy Start for Oscars Live Streaming Initiative

Demand for ABC feed maxes out servers

ABC’s first pass at live-streaming the Academy Awards didn’t exactly go off without a hitch last night, as user demand knocked the service out of commission.

The live video feed streaming on the WatchABC app conked out during the network’s Red Carpet coverage, an outage ABC chalked up to “a traffic overload” caused by demand that exceeded expectations. The service was up and running again at around 10:45 p.m. EST.

ABC’s pilot program was limited to its eight owned-and-operated stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, N.C. and Fresno, Calif. The live-stream also was available only to subscribers of a handful of cable and/or telco-TV services, including Comcast, Cox Communications, Charter, Cablevision, Google Fiber and AT&T U-verse.

Thus, if you met one condition—say, you live in the greater New York metropolitan area and are served by the flagship WABC-7—you were still out of luck if you also happen to be a Time Warner Cable, DirecTV or Dish Network subscriber.

UPDATE: According to Nielsen fast national data, the 86th Annual Academy Awards averaged 43.7 million total viewers, up 8 percent from 40.3 million a year ago. The ceremony drew a 13.1 rating among adults 18-49, up a tenth of a ratings point versus last year’s broadcast. 

Deliveries peaked at 8:30 p.m., when ABC averaged 45.3 million viewers and a 13.6 in the demo. During that same interval, the broadcast drew a 16.0 rating among women 18-49 and an 18.2 with women 25-54.

Due to the nature of live programming and the fact that fast nationals are not time-zone adjusted, the early ratings are approximate. The final live-plus-same-day ratings should be available on Tuesday morning.

According to media buyers, ABC sold out its Oscars inventory earlier than it ever had before, commanding an average unit price of around $1.85 million per 30-second spot. The last spots were claimed just before Halloween.

Per Kantar Media estimates, last year’s Oscars broadcast generated $88.3 million in ad sales inventory. Given ABC’s self-imposed limits on spot loads and the average price increase, last night’s show was expected to net $96 million in ad dollars.