Oprah: Taking Skype’s “Jetson Technology” to Extremes

WhereTheSkypeRU.240px “I thought you were on at 4 in the afternoon”, says a confused Manhattan Best Buy visitor. “No, we tape at 9 in the morning”, replies Oprah. “Oh, then Hi Oprah!”. Placing a Skype webcam setup in a Best Buy store found an adolescent customer who was looking for a Mother’s Day gift and waiting for the neighboring Pottery Barn store to open.

Oprah: “So, do we have permission put this on TV?”

Ashra (Sp?): “On Oprah! Hell, yes!”

JanisAnderson.GriseFiord With this introductory clip of Skype video-induced spontaneity, Oprah’s “Where the Skype Are You” show yesterday became the world’s longest duration, most viewed Skype promotion. During the sixty minutes the show went to downtown Grise Fiord, Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost community on the southern tip of Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Ocean, the Palmer Station Antarctica research site about 200 miles from the South Pole, to 37,000 feet on a Virgin America flight 780 from Seattle to Los Angeles and 60 feet under the ocean to the USS Louisville submarine. Other highlights:

  • Three setups were at locations where such happenstance as shown above could occur: a Manhattan Best Buy Store, Harrod’s in London and at the Oprah sign outside the studio in Chicago.
  • The Oprah sign initially was missing the usual crowd of tourists taking pictures but a later return found five young ladies who were eventually invited into the taping.
  • The Palmer Station Antarctica research team was going to use their Skype video equipment to do live presentations about their research activities to students at schools across the U.S. while it was still there.
  • Oprah.WineTasting Oprah interviewed Skype President Josh Silverman from Skype’s London Corporate Office who gave a brief demonstration of setting up Skype.
  • Obviously Harpo has figured out how to mix Skype video calls to come up with a video conferencing solution that allowed a ”virtual” wine tasting session to happen between a vintner at Bonny Doon Vinyard in Santa Cruz, CA, two Virgin Flight 780 passengers and Josh Silverman in London. Now if we could just get the Skype bit-to-atom converter working to virtually share the wine!
  • The Virgin America flight connection was via Aircell’s recently launched  GoGoInFlight WiFi service, which as of yesterday, is now available on all Virgin America flights. However, only for this flight was Skype video calling allowed; from Wednesday’s press release:

    Although Virgin America does not typically allow Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) products like Skype video call in-flight due to concerns about maintaining a quiet, restful cabin environment, guests can currently use Gogo® to Skype via the instant message feature, in addition to e-mailing, tweeting, updating their Facebook pages and any of the myriad other ways the web is keeping people connected. The early roll out of the Gogo® service across the airline’s network makes Virgin America the first and only airline to offer consumers in-flight WiFi on every flight – regardless of route, aircraft type, or flight time.

  • OprahSketch.BarbaraMuir Local Toronto sketch artist Barbara Muir has taken a liking to doing sketches from Skype Video calls (that’s Barbara’s sketch on my Voice On The Web bio page). Barbara appeared on the show and drew a sketch of Oprah from her Skype video connection. I spoke with Barbara after the show; the interview experience with Oprah had overwhelmed her. She was impressed with how Oprah was up at 4:30 a.m. to prepare for the show; Harpo personnel were contacting her in preparation at 6:00 a.m. Chicago time. As mentioned above the show was taped at 9:00 a.m. Chicago time; and apparently there were two more Oprah shows to be taped that day. Barbara’s biggest issue was having to look at the webcam while Oprah appeared on the her display screen below – a protocol for doing any interview is to be looking the camera “in-the-eye”.

Overall an amazingly interesting production. What would be really interesting is to see if there was any significant post-show jump in Skype downloads and account registrations. But we’ll probably never know.

  • Toronto Globe and Mail: Skype connects Toronto artist to Oprah
  • Check out the Oprah.com user comments related to this show; read about the request for a “modem in the sand” (#12)
  • A historical note from April 2007: Skype Video for “Live On Location” Television Amber MacArthur was the original reporter using Skype video for her reports to Toronto’s CITY-TV.

Next: what I have learned from this about how Harpo produces Skype video calls.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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