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 ISC Sports Network blends live streaming with video subscriptions

When Greg Maish, President of ISC Sports Network, began using Vimeo Livestream, his goal was to live stream sports from around Indiana into the homes of surrounding communities. “We had this vision of a single place where people can come and see local sports,” he said. “We wanted it to be accessible and readily available, for all of our sports fans.”

In just four years, ISC Sports has grown from strictly live streaming games into a full-fledged online channel, using Vimeo OTT to offer live and on-demand sports content. Learn more about how Maish used Vimeo to scale his local sports business, grow his audience, and monetize video content in our interview below.

Growing from live streams to on-demand video

Working in telecommunications for most of his career, Maish understood the trajectory of cord-cutting behavior, especially those who opt into OTT content, or services that go “over the top” of traditional cable providers. “At the end of the day, we all are TV consumers — but we are also very much OTT consumers, whether it’s Roku, Amazon, Chromecast, or even on our mobile devices,” he said.

After digging into his viewers’ behavior in Vimeo Livestream’s analytics, Maish made an interesting discovery. Despite the in-the-moment experience of live sports, there was a surge in broadcast views after the events ended. “It’s an interesting dynamic. We’ll get maybe the same number of views that we get during the game itself,” he said.

With this intel, Maish saw an opportunity to grow his audience with OTT. “Vimeo OTT was the piece that was missing,” he said. “We wanted a ready-to-go, fully developed solution. It’s been a real easy way in [to the OTT industry],” he said, referring to the simple content management tools and branded apps available in the platform.

Generating and growing ad revenue with Vimeo

For many broadcasters, advertising is a critical source of revenue. Admittedly, “local sports is not always that easy to sell,” Maish said (ISC Sports competes with 10 Division I NCAA colleges in the Hoosier state). Using Vimeo OTT’s analytics, Maish was able to pinpoint the number of viewers his productions brought in, where those views came from, their watch time, and more.

“[The analytics] give us great feedback on stuff we would normally guess on,” he said, and unlike other television measurement models, the data is precise. “It’s not a guess, it’s not an estimation — it’s really what’s happening.” Providing quantitative data to advertisers, and subsequently guaranteeing that their product or service will be seen, makes for a straightforward transaction.

Tips to live stream sports

ISC Sports is a prime example of starting scrappy and scaling quickly. How did they achieve their success with building a local sports network in just four years?

1. Know your vision. “You’ve really got to have a vision when you get started,” he said, while acknowledging that it can (and likely will) change. “Ours has evolved over time.

2. Top-notch, reliable distribution. Your business won’t gain traction unless you’re broadcasting quality content to bring in and maintain viewership. “That’s where having a partner like Vimeo plays into our business strategy,” he said. “With Vimeo, we know that when we’re out streaming, it will work. It’s always just worked, and that’s been a key ingredient in our success.”

In the end, Maish remains invested in and reliant on Vimeo to support ISC because of the team behind the platforms. “One thing we’ve learned as both a community-facing service provider and from dealing with vendors, is that loyalty is everything to us,” he said. “If we feel secure in that relationship, we will preach it from the rooftops.”

“When a vendor does what they say they will do and they do it well, we will be vocal to say, ‘These are the guys you want.’ Looking at what we have with Vimeo, we will share the good news with anyone who needs to hear.”

Engaged audiences spark business growth

Through their highly-engaged audience and growing advertising base, ISC Sports now broadcasts all over Indiana. “Our production team continues to grow,” Maish said. “Even for a local game, we may have 10 guys there doing things. We’ve had to evolve into multiple crews, trying to cover as much as we can.”

Fortunately, as demand grows, so does ISC Sports’ bottom line. “What we’re spending is very manageable,” he said, referring to Vimeo’s Livestream and OTT price points. “[It’s] something we can not only pay for, but it makes it a profitable endeavor for us.”

Learn more about how to grow your business — and audience — with on-demand video in our guidebook, The 2018 OTT Revolution. By analyzing 1.3B consumer data points, we took the guesswork out of how viewers consume and subscribe to video content, empowering you to focus on expanding your reach and maintaining subscribers.