Streaming services are set to have an outsized impact on this year’s election coverage, both in terms of audience size and in the contributions they will make to more traditional broadcast coverage.
“There has been a lot of speculation about streaming in the news business but this year has shown that streaming is taking hold in a big way,” said Seni Tienabeso, executive producer of ABC News Live Prime, a primetime streaming show anchored by Linsey Davis. “The pandemic has really accelerated what was already happening in terms of people looking for other avenues to watch news, and you can see that in the audience growth. We had over 9 million people alone watching ABC News Live for the first debate. That is a huge number that ranks with any other broadcast.”
Tienabeso and others said the streaming services are providing audiences with a much wider array of stories and coverage than viewers have ever seen.
Users who open the CBS News app will be able to access 12 different live feeds from 24-hour streaming service CBSN, said Christy Tanner, executive VP and general manager of CBS News Digital. They include a live feed of the CBS broadcast coverage, the national CBSN feed and 10 local feeds from CBS’s owned stations.
“This will give us enormous flexibility in covering live events, races and outcomes simultaneously,” Tanner said.
To make it easier for viewers to find breaking news and content, CBS is launching a new capability to provide live, interactive alerts. “Viewers will get an interactive graphic on the screen when something is breaking and they will be able to use their remote to navigate to it,” Tanner said.
Streaming services will also give audiences additional
ways to access network feeds on authenticated apps, streaming services or YouTube, where PBS NewsHour will be streaming election coverage.
Univision will stream its national broadcast coverage starting at 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 3, senior politics editor Carlos Chirinos said, with digital teams filling breaks in the network coverage with original digital content.
“We will be providing a heavy focus on the local level, because all politics is local,” Chirinos said.
The continuous nature of streaming services also gives news organizations more space and time to explain what promises to be a very complex election. “If you are just approaching this like a horse race for 12, 24, 36 hours or however [long] this goes on, that isn’t helpful to voters,” ABC News Live executive producer Katie den Daas said. “We’re preparing for the long haul so that people can turn on ABC News Live and get the kind of information they want.”
Part of that will be improved data analytics. Journalists from the ABC News-owned polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com will appear on ABC News Live, den Daas said. “They will be able to explain what is happening and why,” she said. “As we inch closer to election and we are inundated with numbers and polling, they’ll be able to really frame and discuss what those numbers might mean or not mean.”
On election night, Newsy will draw extensively on its investigative and longer-form reporting on such subjects as voting by mail, the ballot-counting process, voter suppression concerns, the integrity of the election and the Hispanic vote, Matt Simon, supervising producer for PM content at Newsy, said.
“It is easy to go to roundtables of pundits and much harder to produce analysis that is based on fact and data and still find a way to make it compelling and interesting but that is our mission,” Simon said.
Pandemic-related restrictions have also prompted networks to adopt much more coordinated strategies between their various platforms.
Fox News will have a separate control room, said VP of politics and the Washington Bureau Cherie Grzech, from which she will talk to TV, digital and radio reporters, then route feeds to the various control rooms handling Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Nation and Fox News Radio.
“You will see reporters on multiple platforms throughout the evening,” Grzech said. “We are definitely trying to maximize the ability to move our people from one Fox platform to another.”
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