During the recently concluded presidential election, a lot of attention has been paid to which cable news outlets people are going to to get news and what that means. This has especially become acute in the weeks since the election, with many supporters of President Donald Trump turning away from Fox News following their call of the election for Joe Biden, and instead jumping to such upstart outlets as Newsmax and One America News Network. There’s even renewed speculation that Trump, post-presidency, will attempt to create a media company of his own.
Now, a new survey from Roku shows that huge numbers of Americans streamed election news on the Roku platform. The survey, conducted along with the Harris Poll, found not only that 83 percent of likely voters in the 2020 election are streamers, but that “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 survey covered several key events in the election calendar-the two party conventions, the presidential debates, the vice presidential debate, the town halls, and Election Day itself. On Nov. 3, twelve million viewers “streamed their news on the Roku platform for free,” across the channels available for free on Roku that day, ABC News Live, NBC News Now, Cheddar, and America Teve. Those households tended to skew younger, with 62 percent of them falling within the demographic of eighteen to forty-nine years old.
“TV streaming democratizes 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,” Ashley Hovey, Director of AVOD for Roku, said in the announcement. “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.”
The report also cited Nielsen data that, compared with the election four years ago, linear viewership dropped 35 percent on Election Day, while streaming surged 499 percent.
“The desire to access live and breaking news is no longer holding audiences to traditional pay TV the way it once did,” Hovey said. “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.”
Trump is known to pay close attention to television ratings and to tweet about them frequently. Such figures, about where audiences for political coverage are going, may influence the president’s decision-making, as he decides whether to launch a streaming service—as has been rumored—or to set up a full-on cable news network.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.