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The Doobie Brothers Perform Over Cisco TelePresence - A Review of the Global Transmedia Event

September 28, 2010 | Howard Lichtman
I had the opportunity to attend a Doobie Brothers concert premiering their first new Album in 10 years, titled appropriately: World Gone Crazy.  The event was broadcast live by Cisco, Marriott & AT&T to 11 different Cisco TelePresence systems in the United States and Canada and streamed worldwide over the Internet.  The event was fascinating for a number of reasons including the Doobies themselves, the disintermediation of the broadcast networks, and the integration of telepresence into "transmedia" global events. Here is a collection of some random thoughts on each of these fronts.

The Doobie Brothers & The Super Fans
I was able to watch the concert from a publicly available Cisco TelePresence system at the Marriott Renaissance in Washington, DC in an event that was sponsored by Cisco, AT&T, and Marriot.  I must confess that while I had heard of the Doobie Brothers before the show and their name conjured vaguely positive feelings, they fell into a category of musicians where I can't name a single song but once they started playing I knew virtually every tune and even found myself singing along to songs that I have always liked but never consciously knew the artist.   This put me in the minority because the other attendees were die-hard Doobie Brothers' fans who had won various radio station contests by answering trivia questions about the Doobies to secure their slots at the concert. 

The event was catered by the Renaissance which produced a lovely spread of assorted cheeses, spinach and artichoke dip, warm pretzels and mustard, veggies and hummus, bottled waters and sodas, and a variety of cookies that hotels seem to do so amazingly well.  Noticeably absent was beer and wine much to  disappointment of all the participants. The winners also took home a copy of the new album: World Gone Crazy, a concert tee-shirt, a Cisco HD Flip Camera with a custom Doobie Brothers graphic, and a .05 Marriott ballpoint pen. 

Global Transmedia Event
In addition to winners their were two local radio personalities, Kristi King from WTOP, and a local DJ whose name & station escape me.  From the introduction of the other sites it was clear that there were media personalities present in each of the other ten cities which underscored that this was a global transmedia event where telepresence was being integrated to help the Doobies launch their new album in a very sophisticated, integrated operation.  Here were the other elements as I observed them:

Traditional Radio - Used to build interest in the album launch, create a contest to identify the superfans who will make the best "influential sneezers" about the new album, and report back on the event.

Here is a video shot by a Cisco employee with a HD Flip that I found on YouTube

Live Concert - The Doobies performed at Cisco in San Jose, 2500+ employees entered a raffle for 300 seats, no doubt media and VIPs in the crowd as well. Cisco was able to reproduce the stage lighting and production quality of a network television production and, once the employees were cleared and encouraged to get out of the their seats by the MC, everyone seemed to be having a superb time.

The concert was delivered via high definition telepresence connection to 11 cities in the US and Canada where "superfans" enjoyed a kinsthetic, visceral interactive experience.

Telepresence Delivery - The companies used the event to highlight the inter-organizational connectivity of the AT&T telepresence network and the publicly available capabilities of Marriott, while at the same time giving the superfans & radio DJs ("influential sneezers") in 11 top markets a kinesthetic, visceral, emotional experience that they are sure to discuss with others.  If there was a visceral excitement meter and being at the Live Concert would generate a "10" and watching the high quality stream at home would generate a "3" or "4", then participating in a live, catered telepresence event at a beautiful hotel, with interesting people probably cranks the experience up to a "7" or "8". 

Streaming Delivery - In addition to the concert being broadcast to TelePresence studios, the event was streamed globally to 17,320 people.  Thomas Kayser, who runs the Human Productivity Lab's EMEA telepresence consultancy watched the event from outside of Frankfurt, Germany and participated, monitored, and evaluated the event's social media activity.  Feedback: The video was good/acceptable but the audio was excellent and the social networking aspect added an extra and interactive dimension to the experience. Interestingly: No archived version available.

Social Media - The UStream.TV platform had social media capabilities integrated into the viewer allowing participants to easily broadcast the event's availability to friends via Twittter, Facebook, IM, etc. and allow the band and Cisco to share information on the Album's availability, the discount at, etc.

The event was interactive with each city getting to ask a question or two from the Doobies.  For the record Washington DC wanted to know why Boston, visible to us when they asked their question moments before, had beer and wine while we did not.  The more serious superfan question dealt with where to acquire footage of a particularly memorable Doobie Show in Hawaii years before. 

Bloggers/New Media - Telepresence Options was in the house representing the New Media and the largest identifiable audience in the world interested in telepresence.  I have no doubt there were other influential new media in other locations as well.

MainStreamMedia - I noticed that the Wall Street Journal showed up and phoned in a story and a video.

Doobies_Amazon.jpg - Everyone watching via the stream was given a code to get $2 off the new Album World Gone Crazy at which, predicatively generated enough interest to catapult the new album into the Top 100 ensuring additional sales and buzz from those who browse there.

Telepresence Options Publisher Howard Lichtman and WTOP Reporter Kristi King bring a little old-school concert charm to a high-tech new media venue. - Photo Credit: Rich Greene

Final Random Thoughts

The Disintermediation of Network Television - It was extremely interesting to me that Cisco was able to put on a live concert with, essentially, all the production quality of the major network from a corporate campus and deliver that experience globally to multiple venues and almost 20,000 people with interactive social media layered on top.  Cisco is obviously still finding its legs with the right format and delivery but with multiple video platforms, its relationships with the carriers, and its foothold in the living room through Scientific Atlanta and the wi-fi router, Cisco probably has the traditional MainStreamMedia companies shaking in their boots as technology opens up high-quality broadcast and distribution of content/news/entertainment to a wider and wider group of competitors that is taking more and more global mindshare from the established players. 

Home Telepresence - It is widely rumored that Cisco will be launching Home Telepresence on October 6th.  It will be interesting to see what capabilities this offers to new media platforms to distribute high-definition content.  Will Home TelePresence be one-to-one or one-to-many?  Will I be able to receive the same high-definition experience in my home that I received at the Renaissance?  Can I transmit the same high-quality experience from my home-office globally?

Hotel Telepresence - We are still in publicly available telepresence 1.0.  I expect 1.5 or 2.0 will see the ability to extend the network connection to a much larger screen in one of the hotel's lounges or ballrooms for a more appropriate venue than a room designed specifically for across-the-table business meetings. Full Disclosure: I am biased.  The Human Productivity Lab has our own business model for publicly available telepresence that we are seeking partners and investors for and I have some ideas in this area.

The Doobie Brothers & The Concert Itself - I got so so fascinated with the economics, logistics, and new media marketing aspects of the event that I forgot to mention the concert itself: AWESOME!  The Doobie Brothers Rocked and their first new album in a decade couldn't be off to a better or more interesting start!


About the Author
HSL_Headshot.jpgHoward S. Lichtman is the President of the Human Productivity Lab, an independent consultancy focused on telepresence and effective visual collaboration for organizations looking to improve productivity and reduce costs.  The Lab provides corporate clients with acquisition consulting, RFI/RFP creation, and ROI/TCO financial modeling on telepresence systems, telepresence managed services, and inter-networking telepresence. The Lab also provides investors with prescient insight into the rapidly growing telepresence industry. 

Mr. Lichtman is also the publisher of Telepresence Options, the #1 website on the internet covering telepresence technologies and the Editor of the Telepresence Options Telegraph.

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