Live Earth: mission accomplished?

Live Earth has gotten lots of hype and scorn, most of it the garden variety stuff like that espoused by Jonah Goldberg in the LA Times: Hypocrite musicians… environmental fundamentalism… yada yada yada. But did it accomplish what the promoters hoped?

TV and internet traffic ratings would indicate “not so much”:

NBC’s three-hour Live Earth primetime special, which included highlights from Saturday’s global concerts, failed to generate much enthusiasm in the ratings.

The estimated 2.7 million viewers were slightly less than the 3 million NBC would average on a normal Saturday night in the summer with repeats on what already is the least-popular night of television…

Ratings for individual cable networks weren’t available until today, but Nielsen Media Research said Monday that 19 million people tuned in to at least six minutes of the telecasts on NBC, Bravo, Sundance or the other NBC Universal channels that were involved in Sunday’s telecast.

NBC’s telecast performed below the Live 8 concert two years ago, according to preliminary estimates by Nielsen Media Research.

The three-hour concert special from Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., drew a 0.9 rating/3 share in adults 18-49 — the same as a typical summer Saturday after Memorial Day….

The Live Earth ratings in the U.K. weren’t any better. Ratings for the BBC1 live afternoon telecast was less than one-third of the Concert for Diana numbers a week ago. Live Earth on BBC1 peaked at 4.5 million viewers during Madonna’s performance, compared with the Diana concert that peaked at 14.8 million viewers on BBC1.

On the other hand, streaming downloads of the concerts broke records:

MSN said Monday that more than 8 million users streamed 15.4 million videos of Live Earth on MSN live. That’s ahead of the 5 million people who watched 2005’s Live 8 concert via AOL…

In all, users streamed 30 million videos of Live Earth concert footage on MSN live and on-demand as of Monday morning, said Rob Bennett, GM of entertainment, video and sports at MSN.

Bennett also said that with 237,000 users logged on around midday Saturday, MSN’s Live Earth webcast broke the record for most simultaneous viewers of an online entertainment event. The previous record was 175,000 streaming users for Live 8 on AOL.

What does this tell us? Well, fewer people watched the concerts than typically watch the crappy programming NBC puts out during the slow summer months. And in Britain, where people are arguably far more engaged than Americans, a concert in memory of a long dead princess kicked the pants off of a concert for the most critical global issue of our times!

The high internet numbers point to a largely young, internet-savvy audience. Which would be great if you were trying to sell stuff, but not great if you’re looking to engage the unengaged, as Al Gore committed himself in his recent NYT op-ed (unfortunately now behind NYT.com’s “select” gate).

Couple the disappointing audience figures with the poor call to action (my opinion), and I would sadly have to say that Live Earth was not a success.

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