Streaming Video

Early streaming video was more science experiment than entertainment. Video over the internet wouldn’t become common for almost 20 more years after the first stream.


However, computer companies, thinking about the early Internet, were interested in using it for television. These early transmissions required expensive and complicated computers and extremely expensive Internet connections to receive the video.

Severe Tire Damage, a group of aspiring musicians from Xerox PARC, is the first video ever streamed over the internet. They served as the “surprise opening act” for The Rolling Stones, who broadcast a 20-minute concert over a system called “Multicast Backbone” or “M-Bone” in July 1993.

“In the Friday broadcast, the image filled only a fraction of the screen, about 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches, and the picture quality was poor. Though videos move at 24 frames a second, these images moved at only 1 to 10 frames a second, resulting in what looked like a high-speed slide show.”

Rolling Stones Live on Internet: Both a Big Deal and a Little Deal. The New York Times. Nov. 22, 1994.

The New York Times noted they couldn’t find anybody in Manhattan who had enough bandwidth to watch the show and ended up in Jersey City, at the office which organized the broadcast.

In 1995, Microsoft was ramping up an entire on-demand video service to compete with cable television. However, after an epiphany by Bill Gates that the internet would supersede on-demand video, the entire division pivoted.

Eventually, RealNetworks became the first to broadcast a baseball game over the Internet in 1995.

Because streaming was seen as “on-demand TV” there were many proprietary streaming video solutions, none of which were widely adopted.

Oops, They Did It Again

Staying true to their mission of inventing great things then botching commercialization, streaming video inventor Xerox PARC made no money.

In many ways, the surprise performance of Severe Tire Damage, which uses the URL, was an indicator of the direction of internet video. As of 2019, the Rolling Stones have 1.6 million subscribers on YouTube. YouTube also features a live Severe Tire Damage concert, with 413 views.

The Internet’s First & Arguably Worst Band
News report about the broadcast
(sans Severe Tire Damage)

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