Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Jon Stewart vs. Bill O’Reilly, Live on the Web: Pretty Good, if You Could See It

So. The Jon Stewart-Bill O’Reilly face-off went about exactly as planned: Two extremely adept political entertainers delivered a show that was much more entertaining than anything we ever see from actual politicians.

Except for this one problem: Lots of people who wanted to see the show, which was available only over the Web, couldn’t watch.

The Rumble 2012 Web site seemed unable to process orders for many customers — the show charged $5 a head — and some of those who did get through reported other technical problems.

What happened? The only word from the “Rumble 2012” production team was a tweet blaming “overwhelming demand.” But that shouldn’t fly in 2012.


The Rumble 2012 Web site, meanwhile, doesn’t indicate that anything is amiss. Instead it promises that you should be able to see a replay of the show “shortly.” It’s been saying that for more than 90 minutes. [Update: As of now — 11:19 pm ET — the site’s streaming option still doesn’t work, but I seem to be able to download the show as an MP4.]

At this point it’s worth noting that the production company credited for this event is something called Nox Solutions, which says it’s responsible for running Web sites for the likes of O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs and Laura Ingraham. Perhaps if these guys try this again, they might want to work with YouTube, which was able to provide some 500,000 concurrent streams during the Olympics.

But to be fair, a quick Google search shows that lots of folks watched the show without much problem. I was one of them: I headed over to the site about 30 minutes in advance, handed over my credit card info and started streaming without a hitch at 8 pm Eastern. The site didn’t require me to provide any kind of password or log in, and the video quality was quite reasonable. And I have ordinary, frustrating/adequate Time Warner Cable broadband.

I will say this for the Rumble 2012 people: They seem to have done a good job at working with YouTube to prevent people from uploading clips from the show. Someone named “MISSUNIVERSEMEXICO” has put up a set of unwatchable screengrabs, but beyond that, this is the best I can offer. I assume it will go away shortly:

UPDATE: Here’s the whole thing, via a frustrated Roger Ebert:

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus