Data: Millions of Americans streamed election news for free

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Following the 2020 US presidential elections, streaming device and platform specialist Roku has released new data detailing the significant growth in consumption of election-related news via streaming on the Roku platform.

The analysis coincides with newly-released data from a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 US adults, conducted by The Harris Poll for Roku prior to the November elections, which found that more than eight out of 10 (83 per cent) surveyed likely voters reported being streamers. News viewership and streaming adoption trends help to shed new light on the evolving patterns of an electorate that drove the largest voter turnout in American history.

With most voters leaning into connected television viewing, streaming of US election news surged across the Roku platform during the traditional peak of the campaign season from the 2020 national conventions in August on through to Election Day. According to a viewership analysis, Roku households with an estimated 20 million people streamed election news across the platform’s multiple free, advertising-supported news channels, including directly on The Roku Channel. The analysis covered viewership of the DNC and RNC conventions, both presidential debates and two townhalls, the vice presidential debate and Election Day coverage.

“TV streaming democratises access to content and nowhere have we seen this trend come into play more than with the ability for millions of Americans to access free news at their convenience via their streaming platform,” asserted Ashley Hovey, Director of AVOD for Roku. “This election season, households with tens of millions of people were able to stream live news from some of the world’s most respected media outlets, including ABC and NBC News, for free on the Roku platform.”

On Election Day in particular, homes including an estimated 12 million viewers streamed their news on the Roku platform for free. More than half of those streaming news on the Roku platform on Election Day tuned directly to The Roku Channel for its broad selection of free live news offerings from partners including ABC News Live, NBC News Now, Cheddar, and the Spanish language América Tevé. Total streaming hours of The Roku Channel’s live linear programming increased more than 500 per cent on Election Day compared to the prior day, breaking all previous single day records for live linear streaming hours on the Roku platform.

The majority of the households that streamed news across the Roku platform also skewed younger with nearly two-thirds (62 per cent), including people in the coveted 18-49 year-old advertising demographic.

This data mirrors the broader election year trend reported by Nielsen, which found a significant change in how Americans consumed Election Day news in 2020. According to Nielsen, linear viewership dropped 35 per cent on Election Day compared to 2016, while streaming increased by 499 per cent.

“The desire to access live and breaking news is no longer holding audiences to traditional pay TV the way it once did,” added Hovey. “Millions of Americans have now discovered new ways to access quality news programming for free, which we believe will only further the migration towards a streaming-first television world”.

The election data comes on the heels of a Harris Poll survey of likely voters which found that while Americans don’t agree on many things, the one thing that brings Republican, Democrat and Independent voters together is their preference for streaming. Adults from all three political affiliations reported spending nearly twice as much time streaming TV as they did watching traditional pay TV. And for many, they are watching no traditional TV at all. The survey found that 45 per cent of both Democrats and Republicans (and 44 per cent of all likely voters) have either cut the cord or plan to in the year ahead. Independents are leading the charge away from linear television with more than half reporting that they have either already cut the cord or they are planning to this year.

Looking ahead to the State of Georgia run-off elections in January, one out of five Georgian voters surveyed by The Harris Poll reported being unreachable on linear television today because of cord cutting, with another 24 per cent saying they plan to cut the cord in the coming months. The implications for political campaigns, and marketers more broadly, seeking to reach targeted audiences is clear, says Roku.

“Streaming is fundamentally altering many of the norms advertisers have come to expect the past few decades,” advised Alison Levin, VP of Global Ad Revenue and Marketing Solutions. “The 2020 elections highlighted the broad implications of the move to a streaming-first world, where in the not-too-distant future, the majority of voters – and for that matter the majority of consumers – will no longer be reachable on traditional pay TV. Campaigns have adapted to the technology and trend shifts just as major brands have done with the 2020 election season, signalling a real shift by advertisers to embracing the full funnel capabilities of streaming advertising.”


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