Tech problems hamper O’Reilly-Stewart debate

October 7, 2012

(Peter Kramer/AP)

Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly did a great deal to promote their much-anticipated debate at George Washington University on Saturday night. “You are so going down Saturday night,” Stewart sneered at O’Reilly in a Thursday night segment on Stewart’s “Daily Show.” The debate was titled “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium” and was available to the public via livestream, at a charge of $4.95. Of course, any event involving Jon Stewart has to have some satire: “It’s Why Al Gore Invented the Internet,” read one promo line for the event.

And that’s where things got dicey on Saturday night — the Rumble’s Internet wasn’t working so well. Many people who attempted to log onto the site just before the 8 p.m. start time had difficulty shelling out their money to buy the livestream. How did they express their frustrations? Via Twitter hashtag, of course:

The Erik Wemple Blog’s own experience shadows the tale of the tweets above. Over more than 30 minutes of trying to log on, this blogger experienced a lot of “Problem[s] Loading Page” and other signals of web-loading distress.

We’ve reached out to the organizers to see what went down. The official Twitter feed of the event carried this notification:

Due 2 overwhelming demand, our servers have been overloaded.We apologize for any inconvenience and we’re working to resolve the issue.

— The Rumble 2012 (@therumble2012) October 7, 2012

And the company posted this amplification, which addressed an issue on the minds of many who’d paid to watch the Rumble:

We understand many viewers had difficulty streaming the debate when it began. These issues have been resolved and the show is now available both on-demand and via download. For anyone who was unable to view The Rumble live and no longer wishes to do so, refund information will be available early next week. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

That’s a much-needed apology, though the notion of “refund information” is a bit noncommittal.

It’s the “Due 2 overwhelming demand” part that doesn’t travel smoothly down the gullet. Here you have two of the biggest stars on cable; they both have enormous followings; they’re clashing in a highly promoted event; and the event is taking place right smack in the middle of political high season. And the organizers don’t prepare properly for the “overwhelming demand”? Did they suppose there'd be underwhelming demand?

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Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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