Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How to Spend Saturday Night Without TV: Watch Jon Stewart and Jay-Z, Live on the Web

If you’re really going to cut the cord and make do without pay TV, you’re going to have give up certain stuff. Like lots of live programming.

But not this weekend. At 8 pm ET, you can watch Jon Stewart debate Bill O’Reilly, live from George Washington University. And as soon as that’s over, you can click over to YouTube, where Jay-Z is streaming the last show of his eight-night run at Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center.

Total cost: $5, which goes to Stewart and O’Reilly, who say they’ll give half their profits to charity. The Jay-Z show is gratis.

My only real beef is that it will be harder to get this stuff from your PC to your plasma than it ought to be. If you’re interested in doing so, you may still need some combination of cables and/or boxes, like Apple TV.

This kind of live Web programming used to be a big deal, but now it’s increasingly common. Part of that has to do with technical leaps the Web video business has made (more on that later), and part of it is that the cost/audience equation now makes sense: You can do these live events without losing money, and you may even make some.

My hunch is that we’re still a very long way from seeing any of the real tentpole live events — like awards shows and big sports events — move from TV over to Web-only streams. But Jon Stewart and Jay-Z aren’t exactly niche, either.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work