YouTube will be streaming the upcoming Royal Wedding in Britain, live. It's the biggest gig Google has landed yet, as the event will garner the attention of billions of people around the world—many of whom will watch online.
Back in March we learned that the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was going to be streamed live online, but now we know that Google's YouTube will be the official online broadcast vehicle, via the official Royal Channel on the streaming video service.
Live coverage of the event includes the wedding ceremony itself inside Westminster Abbey, the Royal Procession through central London to Buckingham Palace, and the "first public kiss" on the balcony at the palace overlooking the Mall. There's also going to be a live blog via the Prince's press office which acts as another data stream for commentary, historical information, and additional film footage.
YouTube's score comes despite the Prince having struggled with the media on privacy matters for most of his life. He and the Palace are savvy enough to realize that giving live Net access is a necessary positive-PR trick. And Google gets exposure, too, for YouTube's new live streaming capabilities. The choice of live provider was probably limited by infrastructure decisions, since not just any small service would be able to cope with the demand.
How much demand, exactly, is hard to say. When Prince Charles married Lady Diana back in 1981 the Internet was a far-future fantasy, but still the global television audience topped 750 million (around one in six people on the planet). While this year's wedding will be carried on TV channels around the world, there will undoubtedly be pressure to watch the proceedings online—from people who are at work, for example. With close to two billion Net users connected to the web nowadays, that could turn into an incredible data load on Google's machines.
We can probably assume that Google's servers are able to cope. It would be a PR disaster if the "royal event of the decade" crashed. It's also safe to assume that Google is beefing up its security to prevent hackers squashing or subverting the broadcast (a distinct possibility given the increasing number of high-profile personal and politically-motivated hacks happening at the moment).
Google has really thrown itself into the Royal Wedding, it seems: Interested fans can already access a specially enhanced Google Earth zone for London which has extra-detailed 3-D models of the buildings along the wedding procession route as well as hand-arranged digital trees in the representation of London's great parks. And the Royal Channel on YouTube is already hosting teaser videos, like the rehearsal of the chapel choir (below). Ultimately it's all about the money—it's a huge PR coup, and while people who access YouTube to watch the wedding won't necessarily be exposed to advertising, merely by joining the channel to watch they'll be supplying Google with useful demographic data it could use to improve its targeted advertising business. Just don't expect any "by Royal Appointment" emblems to appear on Google's digital property.
[Image via Flickr user sallyB2]