Well, the avian theme has come back to haunt us of late, but here’s some avian news that’s sure to warm the cockles of your heart. Last year, the Decorah Eagles became the Web’s biggest reality TV stars.
Let me explain: A pair of Bald Eagles, nesting in Decorah, Iowa, were captured on camera 24/7 in a live stream established by The Raptor Research Project, a non-profit organization that specializes in the preservation of falcons, eagles, ospreys and other birds of prey. The organization set up a Ustream channel that allowed users to watch around-the-clock footage of the parents raising three eaglets. The live stream racked up more than 200 million views, making it the most-viewed Ustream feed in the company’s five-plus-year history.
And now, the Decorah Eagles are back for a “Season Two”. The parental pair returned to their nest at the end of December to begin their “nesting ritual,” and three eggs were laid in late February — with the first egg expected to hatch any day now. The two remaining eggs are expected to hatch about a week apart. Since the avian parents returned to their nest, Ustream tells us that the stream attracted 11 million global views, with viewership reaching as high as 23,000 live viewers at a time. [Ustream tells us its now reached over 41K]
Part of what made the Decorah Eagles feed so popular was that it was so bare bones, just a profile page, and a live stream of a family of Eagles doing what they do. But, with the rise of user generated content distribution media (and their popularity), social tools have the power to make the content much more engaging and interactive for viewers.
The feed didn’t include any bells and whistles to reach a broad audience, but Ustream has added a few features this year to improve upon the Decorah Eagles sitcom experience, including, for starters, night vision, high definition, and panning cameras. The company is also incorporating a “Social Stream” feature, where fans can communicate in a realtime, using an interactive chat module to share their thoughts and cheer on the eagles, as the video streams. (This also includes Facebook and Twitter integration.) Ustream also created a “Superchannel” for Raptor Resource Project, so that fans can watch all of its cameras in one, consolidated channel at once. Viewers can navigate through this interactive landing page, watch at once, or select between any of the live broadcasts.
Jon Orlin, the man in charge of TechCrunch TV, is himself a fan of the Decorah Eagles, and had this to say about the uber-popular feed:
It’s pretty amazing how this live eagle channel has taken off. There are no (human) actors, writers, or fancy production or graphics. Just mother nature. Actually, it does take some impressive bird cameras and technology infrastructure. Much of the time, there isn’t a lot of action happening. But its live, compelling, and you don’t want to miss what happens next. If it weren’t available live, it just wouldn’t have the same impact, or, likely the sizable viewership.
Disclosure: Ustream provides live streaming services for TechCrunch