- Facebook and ABC News are teaming up again, this time to live stream the presidential debates starting Monday, Sept. 26. The two previously partnered to broadcast both parties' conventions earlier this year, attracting a cumulative 28 million viewers to ABC News’ Facebook Page, according to TechCrunch.
- The live stream goes beyond the debates themselves to include content throughout the day such as pre-debate programming and interactive elements that integrate viewers’ comments, questions and conversations, according to TechCrunch. The streams will notably be ad-free.
- UPDATE: On Wednesday, Twitter and Bloomberg announced their own live streaming partnership for the presidential debates, pitting the microblogging site against the much-bigger Facebook for viewers.
How the presidential candidates handle themselves will not be the only comparisons made during the upcoming debates as Twitter and Facebook square off in the quickly growing live streaming space.
Twitter grabbed a lot of attention with its NFL deal to live stream games and clearly sees live events as key to its use case, given how commenting on TV programming via Twitter has become a popular activity. It would be a much-needed win for Twitter, which has seen its growth rate slow, if it can best Facebook in viewers during the debates.
However, Facebook has seen significant growth in video and live streaming this year and is likely to put up a good fight as it looks to establish itself as a more dominant player here.
These are just the latest deals that bring content once solely in the purview of linear TV to social media platforms, a trend that suggests the future of video isn't confined to the living room. Live news and sports coverage are the last bastion of on-demand viewing for traditional TV, but the presidential debates going live on mobile demonstrates that even those sort of exclusives won't be around much longer.
One of the most significant deals pertaining to video this fall is Twitter’s NFL partnership for 10 Thursday Night Football games, the first of which broadcast last week to a total digital viewership of 2.4 million. Twitter also recently released apps which integrate many of the platform's features onto popular TV streaming services, like Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Xbox One.
As many people — especially coveted millennial and Gen Z demos — continue to shut off the tube and turn attention to options on mobile screens, media companies and content producers must adjust accordingly, or continue to face the slipping ratings that have plagued most major networks this year.
The fact that the ABC News, Facebook Live content will not include ads suggests both companies are still trying to determine how big an audience there is for election coverage online. If the audience is significant, both will likely start experimenting with ways to monetize the content.