Political Streaming Data: What 6.9 Million Viewers Tell Us About American Politics

In the year since one of the most divisive elections in US history, more than 6.9 million Americans got their news straight from the source by tuning into live press conferences, hearings, and briefings on Livestream.

When the information landscape is crowded with niche news sources, “fake news,” and Russian propaganda, this unfiltered access to primary political content is helping to bridge divides while American politics are at their most contentious. Livestream wanted to look at our own political streaming data to see what we could learn about our audience and their political views.

Image courtesy of Pew Research Center

Where Livestream Fits in Political Streaming Data + News

With an estimated 22.2m Americans slated to cancel their TV service in 2017, according to eMarketer, cordcutting is increasingly becoming a national pastime with Americans are increasingly getting their political news and information online. The Pew Research Center reports that as of August 2017, 43% of Americans often get news from online sources – neck-and-neck with the 50% who often get news on television. This gap between traditional broadcast TV news and digital has doubled in size since 2016. The same report notes that 85% of US adults get their news on mobile devices, and this surge is driven by older Americans: “Roughly two-thirds (67%) of those ages 65 and older now get news on a mobile device, a 24%-point jump from 2016 and about three times the share in 2013.”

Analyst Peter Moore, from digital survey company YouGov, found in 2016 that: 27% of America is “actively trying to avoid the news.” YouGov also reports that distrust in traditional media is on the rise, finding in a 2017 study that “Most Americans (70%) agree that news organizations report stories in a light that’s partial to who owns them.”

As Livestream is a platform – not a media company in the traditional sense – there is no political viewpoint offered. This level playing field eliminates the potential for slanting coverage through cherry-picking contributors or seconds of coverage presented without context. This neutrality and whole presentation of political streams offer viewers an unobscured look at notable political moments.

What Livestream Audiences Are Saying About Politics

We set out to study how our audiences discuss political streams and share their opinions. In 2016, coverage of the US presidential election and associated events – such as debates, rallies, press conferences – ranked as some of the most popular content on Livestream. A contributing factor to the popularity of these streams in Livestream’s unique live chat feature. Unlike the myriad internet comment sections found on traditional broadcast news sites, our audience can comment, chat, and debate in real time.

A year out from election day 2016, we analyzed the sentiment of the 5,355 comments on 241 politically-focused streams from November 2016 to November 2017, as seen by 6,959,622 viewers. We also looked at how this sentiment and viewership changed over time.

First we digitally analyzed the comments to rank the most-used words and visualized our results below – the more often a word was used, the larger it appears.

Then we looked at negative or positive comments over time. Computational tools were used to determine the emotional tone behind words, and to gain an understanding of the attitudes, opinions, and emotions of the people commenting. Illustrated in the graphic below, positive and negative comments overall spiked around the election, spiked massively around the inauguration, and then spiked negatively in June 2017 when Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey testified about Russian involvement in the election alongside other intelligence officials.

Political Streams + Audience

What political streams received the most viewership? We can only track what was streamed on our platform but the most viewed streams of President Trump’s first year in office include Secretary Clinton’s post-election address, the Inauguration, and former FBI Director Comey’s testimony in June.

Header image courtesy of Steve Harvey

[Case Study] How Nikon Inc is Live Streaming Their Events & Trainings

With a large remote workforce, photography industry leader Nikon Inc was looking for a way to conduct staff trainings using live video. Originally, internal trainings were their only intended use case: it was cost effective and engaging. “There’s nothing quite as engaging as a live broadcast,” said Mark Soares, Senior Marketing Manager at Nikon Inc. Since then, their strategy has evolved into live streaming events and trainings. “We realized we needed to use live streaming to reach and engage our customers,” he said.

Since starting their journey with Livestream in 2017 (now Vimeo Livestream), Nikon Inc’s reach has exploded through live streaming their events and trainings. “It’s not just an add-on to our events strategy, it’s a key part of the strategy.”


Determining a Live Stream Strategy & Metrics for Events

In terms of developing a strategy, Soares and his team eased into broadcasting live from their events. “Our initial goal was to just get the ball rolling,” he said. “It’s intimidating when you first start; many things can go wrong with a live broadcast.” As such, ease of use and setup were critical to ensure they could get their live event running smoothly.

Their first time live streaming at a trade show was during the WPPI Conference in Vegas. To determine a metrics and ROI of their live streams, the Nikon Inc team divided the number of in-person attendees at the event in half, and used that number as a benchmark goal for total live viewers. “That was our guess,” Soares said. “We really had no metric to base it on because it was our first time [doing it].”

So, how did Nikon Inc fare with their first experiment? “We exceeded it significantly. We had almost 300% more viewers than what we had initially planned.”

“With a fairly modest increase in budget, you can reach a considerably higher audience [with live streaming].”

Since then, Nikon Inc has been on a live streaming rocket ship, launching a marketing strategy built around live. This includes major product announcements and trade show events, and has become a cost-effective way to reach a larger audience than even the biggest trade shows. “People go to trade shows for education, and a lot of brands bring education to the trade show floor,” Soares said. “If you’re already bringing that talent in, then it’s really not that much of a stretch to put a camera in front of them and broadcast it.”


Image courtesy of Nikon LIVE from NAB 2018 Day 2 – Corey Rich – Paralleling Still and Motion


Selecting Content for Live Streamed Events

One key driving factor to a successful live stream is the quality of the content. Soares’s advice is common (and always applicable): listen to your customers, and you’ll better understand what they want. Then, turn that feedback into content.

“Your end users are your best ambassadors. Take the content that they create [to inform your strategy], because they will inspire others to go out and do the same thing,” he said. Soares also suggests tailoring the content to specific demographics or niche audiences. For example, at WPPI, which focuses on wedding and portraiture, Nikon Inc brought in wedding photographers to share their expertise with attendees and live viewers.

“Take great content, great talent, and schedule it on a regular basis, and users will keep tuning in,” he said. “That’s why the audience keeps growing every single time we do this. You will add viewers to your event every single time. Incrementally, we keep expanding the viewership.”

Tips to Promote & Prepare for a Live Stream

Leading up to every major live stream, Soares and his team rolls out a turnkey marketing strategy to attract new and existing customers. First and foremost, Soares suggests building in paid marketing to your promotional planning. In addition to a paid social media campaign, Nikon Inc also:

  • Updates a landing page whenever a new event approaches
  • Sends email campaigns to current customers promoting their upcoming live programming
  • Features banners on their website with information about the live stream

Nikon Inc has found great value in simulcasting to Facebook Live, as well. “The viewership lives on social media,” he said. “While we get great numbers from streaming to our own site, we supplement that with our social channels, too.”

Don’t forget about the experience for your live viewers, too. “You’ve got to get great talent on camera that can speak eloquently to inspire your user base,” Soares said. “Look to give a great experience through the actual broadcast. We started with a single, fixed camera, and now we have many cameras where we can change the angle, etc — it’s very cinematic.”

However you plan to promote your live event, iteration and consistency is essential. “Start with something you can manage and build on it. There’s this exponential growth when you do these events on a regular basis and with great content. People will keep coming back.”


Nikon’s Technical Setup for Live Streaming

Wondering how Nikon Inc sets themselves up for success with their live streams? Here’s the equipment they use for their live broadcasts:

  • 2 Nikon cameras/lenses (of course), sometimes with a roving camera
  • Cameras are hardwired into a 4K Livestream HD550 (💡Tip: Nikon uses 4K cropping, which increases production level so two cameras look like six)
  • Livestream Studio
  • One back up Livestream Studio HD550

“Nikon makes cameras, but we are not in the business of broadcasting live events,” he said. “We needed a system that would be portable and easy to use, so that almost anyone could use it.”


Why Vimeo Livestream?

As a leading brand in the photography space worldwide, Nikon Inc needed an all-in-one solution that would make live streaming smooth for their large remote workforce and even bigger global audience. Whether internal or external, Nikon Inc’s live streams require a sophisticated workflow with a robust cloud solution, that was also portable and all inclusive. Vimeo Livestream fit the bill: a platform that makes live streaming simple and accessible, along with powerful and portable hardware — the Studio HD550 is Nikon Inc’s encoder of choice.

Livestream is the only end-to-end solution that empowers you to distribute compelling live content, engage your employees, and grow your business. To find out how to get started with live streaming, check out our “Ultimate Guide to Live Streaming Events” guide.