Television networks are historically reticent to share big ticket programming with the web. But when it comes to raising money for a good cause, everyone is a little more charitable with their content.

This Friday, George Clooney is set to host a telethon to raise money for charity. Help for Haiti Now will air live across more than 40 different outlets, from terrestrial television to online and mobile networks. It also promises an unadultered glimpse into how many digital dimes television networks could be earning from live content.  

In addition to appearing on all four major broadcast networks, the telethon will be available on more than 20 U.S. channels and several Canadian networks. Also, multiple American mobile carriers and international networks plan to stream the events. Even MTV China will be airing the Clooney extravaganza.

The event will be a first, since popular content is often siloed into the most profitable venue (namely television). To date, premiere sporting events that garner the most predictably large audiences, have been kept within the confines of television.

NBC head Jeff Zucker has gotten a lot of criticism (including from me) for his comments regarding analog dollars and digital dimes for such events. Zucker is still not willing to stream content online that he thinks will bring in big ad dollars on terrestrial TV:

“What we’ve lost in terms of viewers and ad dollars on the traditional analog systems is not being made up for on the digital side. Until we do that, there’s a risk to all our business plans."

Television networks are right to be hesitant about streaming content when they aren't sure how to monetize it yet and the model is so clear for TV. But that hesitance also makes it harder to discern where consumers would watch video given unlimited options. This week's events should provide a little insight there. 

The telethon has been dubbed a "publicity stunt for pop stars" and the rich and famous are coming out in droves to beg, borrow and plead for dollars across the globe. Among the participants are Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, Bono, The Edge, Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys. In addition to Clooney hosting in California, Wyclef Jean will appear from New York City and Anderson Cooper will be reporting on-location from Haiti.

Meanwhile, performances will be sold on iTunes for $0.99 starting Saturday. Because the goal is to draw attention to the plight in Haiti, celebrities, organizations and networks are working together to get this programming to the largest audience possible.

All proceeds from the telethon will be split equally between the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund; United Nations World Food Programme (WFP); Oxfam America; Partners in Health; the Red Cross; UNICEF; and Yele Haiti Foundation.

Between the celebrity talent, corporate backing and the diverse media outlets, the event is set to raise an impressive amount of funding for disaster efforts. But it will also serve as a proving ground for many digital outlets. When no one is trying to personally profit from a major media event, it allows for an untainted look into consumers media habits.

With television, digital and mobile options for viewing available, it will be interesting to see on Monday what media options consumers turn to when no one's counting their dimes. 

Image: Getty

Meghan Keane

Published 21 January, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (3)


Nancy Carrasco

George why dont you cut a CD with all the best songs from all the singers that want to help.  Maybe have it be a 2 or 4 disc cd with the popular songs that america likes.   I garentee you if you promoted correctly it would be the number one selling CD in the world.   100% proceedes / sales goes to Haiti.

This could be something that could be future money for Haiti.

over 8 years ago



excellent idea, fantastic modern artist gig, heartfelt music to give love to a heartbroken people.

over 8 years ago


Dr. Sophia Hudson

Enough Is Enough.

Ok, the United States has raised over 528 Million (Headline) “Help Haiti Exceed $528-Million, Chronicle Tally in Philly. “ Now we did more than any other country and it’s time to collaborate right in the United States and help clean up our own backyard.

There is a Reverend, named Trey Noran in the Denver area that has a desire to open two homeless hotels, his web site I read and heard of this man from face book and just last evening on WCAN Radio. My suggestion is that George Clooney followers and other Stars assist Reverend Noran right here in this country.

Dr. Sophia Hudson

over 8 years ago

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