Oprah backs Skype in webcast first

One day after millions tuned in to the premiere of Oprah's Big Give, the lady herself tried to make webcast history with that little free-long-distance VoIP thing - Skype.

On Monday, Oprah Winfrey launched the first of 10 interactive online sessions in which she and author Eckhart Tolle teach the lessons contained in his book, A New Earth – her latest book club selection. Despite technical hiccups, the move has given Luxembourg-HQ’d Skype some high-profile exposure in North America.

Skype (owned by eBay) is sponsoring the sessions and giving its users the ability to send questions to Oprah via live video calling or to discuss the book with friends in group chats. The sessions, which teach the lessons contained in Tolle’s tome, will be rolling out every Monday for another nine weeks. Skype’s logo appears on-screen during Oprah’s dialogue with questioners, and Oprah reportedly called the tech/communications company ‘wonderful.’

Oprah’s Monday night webcast was one of the largest online events in history. More than 500,000 people logged on to Oprah.com to watch Oprah and Tolle live – enough to bring forth apologies from Harpo Productions, Move Networks and Limelight Networks for less than optimal viewing experiences. The prodcos have followed up by making the first session of the webinar available at Oprah.com or for downloading on iTunes.

Meanwhile, Oprah’s Big Give debuted on CTV’s Sunday night sked to 1.7 million viewers, including 1.01 million in the A25-54 demo and 960,000 in A18-49.

It’s only been a few months since Oprah launched her own YouTube channel last fall. As of Tuesday at noon, that channel had signed on 26,067 subscribers (making the most-subscribed list) and recorded 895,511 channel views. A promo for A New Earth on that channel, posted on Jan. 30 (the same day Skype released a version of its protocol for the Sony PSP handheld gaming platform), recorded 149,991 views.