Millions Turned on Their Computers to Watch Victoria's Secret's Show

The video feed was choppy, but that didn't stop millions of users from logging on Thursday afternoon to the fuzzy Victoria's Secret's 2000 Cannes Fashion Show Webcast, which showcased the synergy of cutting-edge technology and barely-there fashion.

A bevy of Victoria's Secret supermodels strutted down the runway to an upbeat, neo-classical soundtrack in fabrics from lace to leather, some in fur and some wearing angelic wings.

Yahoo! delivered the fashion show video broadcast over its digital distribution network, using "multi-cast" technology that replicates one stream of video to reach many viewers, perhaps the reason for the poor quality of the video. Those who logged in early had little trouble getting a "virtual seat," but after about 3:10 p.m. ET users were locked out in the cyber-parking lot.

This is the second year Yahoo! and Victoria's Secret partnered in the live Webcast from Cannes, which crashed systems in February, 1999, when more than 1.5 million visitors logged on for what was at the time the largest Internet broadcast ever.

A Victoria's Secret spokesperson said there were too many variables to predict how many viewers would log on for the 2000 show, but some industry observers predict the Webcast could draw up to 3 million visitors.

Intimate Brands, Victoria's Secret's parent company, has dedicated the past year to beefing up its infrastructure to handle the high volume expected this year. The company has added load-balancing switches, multi-casting software, dedicated-hosting facilities, and 10 times its normal bandwidth.

The improvements were implemented not just to host the Webcast but to debut a transactional technology that will allow U.S. viewers to shop while they watch. Victoria's Secret is exploring this new digital distribution channel as part of Yahoo!'s Fusion Marketing program, an integrated custom marketing program designed to increase companies' Internet presence by connecting them with Yahoo!'s audience.

"We put a tremendous amount of time and resources into preparing for this year's Webcast over the last year in order to make the glamour of Victoria's Secret available to consumers across the globe," said Tim Plzak, Director of Advanced Technology Planning at Intimate Brands. "We are proud to be offering features such as 'shop while you watch' to our customers and view the Webcast as an extension of our 'virtual' storefront."

To prevent volume-induced crashes, the company also instituted "gatekeeper-like" technology to bounce overflow visitors to Victoria's Secret's branded glam-lounge site, which resides on external servers.

The event is part of the Cinema Against AIDS 2000 fundraiser, sponsored by Mirimax Films and Victoria Secret to benefit the American Foundation of Aids Research. Featuring such top models as Stephanie Seymour, Karen Mulder, Heidi Klum and Laetitia Casta, it is expected, according to organizers, to raise more money for amFAR than any other fundraiser in its history.

Miramax Chairman Harvey Weinstein said more companies should follow Victoria's Secret lead in leveraging their brand to fight AIDS.

"Heidi and Laetitia and the ladies were a part of the fashion industry that's been ravaged by AIDS. The community should welcome that," Weinstein said.