TED Talks to Be Broadcast Live for Free in Vancouver

TED will allow local libraries, non-profits and universities to live-stream next month’s TED talks for free.

Lower Mainland and Sea-to-Sky universities, secondary schools, non-profits and libraries can live-stream next month’s TED Talks live and for free. It’s a level of unprecedented access for the technology, entertainment and design event series

UPDATED If the TED Talks had an Achilles Heel—the one thing that the technology, entertainment and design conference couldn’t dodge no matter how many impoverished geniuses it highlighted or free archives it posted online—was the fact that attending or viewing the live event as it happened was prohibitively expensive for many. Haters ranging from the mainstream media to anonymous trolls held the fact that attendance costs in excess of US$7,500 and live simulcasts cost $3,750 high as evidence that for all the inspiration, TED is a media empire charging big buck, just like the rest of ’em.
But for the first time ever, when the conference comes to Vancouver’s Convention Centre next month from Mar. 17 – 21, the TED Talks will be free. Well, free for anyone with affiliation to an accredited secondary school, university, library, community centre and NGO in the Greater Vancouver Area. The webstream will be open to accredited secondary schools, universities, libraries, community centres and NGOs in the following communities: Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Richmond, Squamish, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria, West Vancouver and Whistler.
“This is our 30th birthday and we decided to make this the most ambitious TED yet,” says Tom Rielly, the company’s director of partnerships. “So we wanted to do something that would give back to the community in a real and exciting way.”
The company essentially waived a series of very hefty fees for unprecedented access to the event. The program is based on the existing TED Live offer, which previously cost US$600 per person to watch the events live on their computer, or US$2,500 to colleges, universities and small businesses that would watch, presumably, in a group.
Live simulcasts called TEDActive, like the one happening in Whistler and Palm Spring when the event was running in Long Beach, California, cost US$3,750 and include networking, guest appearances by speakers, and membership in the TED Book Club.
An email blast addressed to “Dear Vancouver area Educators, Library and NGO Leaders” is going out later today and invites attendees who are referred to as “a key member of the Vancouver community.”
“As a gesture of appreciation for the warm welcome we’ve received in Vancouver, TED would like to offer you a free live webstream to share TED2014… with your students or constituents,” the invite reads.
Rielly says that he’s hoping the free offer will inspire leaders to take ownership of watching live-streamed talks with friends and colleagues.
“Inspiration happens in a group, rarely alone in front of a computer,” he says. “That’s why we encourage organization representatives to take ownership and organize TED viewings throughout the week.” He adds that big theatre halls would be ideal viewing environments.
The conference sessions will also be available on demand, about three hours after each session finishes. “If TED doesn’t fit in your schedule, you can pull up sessions when it is good for you,” Rielly adds.
He says interested people should fill out this form to be considered, with the caveat that TED has final approval.
The move is the first bit of public engagement since a bombastic announcement almost a year ago by the consortium that coaxed the event to Vancouver and Whistler. But it’s been very quiet in the lead up to what many are calling “The Creative Olympics.” Back in October, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson outlined his plans for public square events, signage and putting a Vancouver stamp on TED at a Vancouver Board of Trade meeting. In late December, chief of staff Michael Magee told BCBusiness that the City hadn’t “been able to connect with the TED people formally on anything yet.”

Rielly says that the free access to the 2014 live broadcast is not affiliated with the City of Vancouver per se, but “Tourism Vancouver is enthusiastically supporting our webstream program, distributing the invitation to their relevant education and NGO lists and helping to promote this opportunity in the community. This is just one example of our daily interaction with the Vancouver government, which has been a constant for us since working together to bring the conference to Vancouver.”