The first of the three presidential debates is coming up on Monday night, and in addition to the spotlight being on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it looks like a big focus will be on live-streaming. That’s because Facebook, YouTube and Twitter - each of which is pushing hard into live-streaming - will stream the debates, in partnership with a variety of major media companies.
YouTube will be streaming in partnership with PBS, Fox News, The Washington Post, Bloomberg and Telemundo as part of its #voteIRL initiative. Facebook has once again partnered with ABC News (as it did for the conventions) to stream the debates, which it will enhance with viewers’ comments and conversations in Facebook Live. Finally, as part of its previously-announced partnership, Twitter will be streaming Bloomberg TV’s coverage of the debates.
Of the group, the most interesting to me is Twitter’s live-stream, as it follows on the company’s NFL Thursday night deal. With the integrations of Twitter’s app on Apple TV, Fire TV and Xbox One, Twitter is clearly looking to be an alternative video source for cord-cutters to watch high-profile events on TV. As I wrote earlier in the week, the combination of four key technologies - wired/wireless broadband, backend delivery, connected TV devices and apps - made last Thursday night’s Twitter NFL broadcast a milestone for online video. Now the debates will give Twitter another opportunity to lure viewers to give it a try on TV.
Needless to say, the upcoming presidential debates are going to draw huge audiences given the rancor of this election. But for those that don’t subscribe to pay-TV, the plethora of live-streams is going to offer legitimate alternatives to follow along. Piggy-backing on marquee live events will mean more users will be exposed to live-streaming, helping its awareness and credibility.
Live-streaming is still a relatively nascent corner of the online video industry, but it’s clearly getting a lot of attention from YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, among others. If the streaming debates succeed, they’ll help reinforce the perception that pay-TV is no longer required to watch popular content on TV. That would give prospective cord-cutters greater comfort to make the leap. I still don’t expect cord-cutting to skyrocket any time soon, but the drip-drip could accelerate.