Trump's well-produced Facebook livestream hints at future streaming network plans

Donald Trump speaking in Washington, D.C., in 2011. Image: Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump is rumored to be planning a new media company and during this week’s debate with Hillary Clinton he may have offered a preview of what that would look like.

According to Engadget, Trump’s Facebook livestream of the event featured commentators, analysis and graphics, making it look more like a traditional broadcast than just a live stream over IP.

Trump’s children Ivanka, Eric and Lara, as well as Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn all sat in on the "TrumpTV" livestream. Engadget pointed out that about 200,000 viewers watched the broadcast.

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In addition to drawing a substantial audience, Trump’s Facebook Live stream also served as a useful campaign fundraiser. According to Politico, Trump’s campaign raised more than $9 million in donations from viewers during the livestream.

The production lengths Trump’s team went to for the debate livestream lend some credence to reports earlier this month that Trump is planning a video streaming service. A Wall Street Journal report cited people familiar with the matter who suggested Trump is using the election to build a head of steam for a network launch.

According to the report, the primary business strategy for the reported venture is an online subscription video service, not unlike what conservative pundit Glenn Beck did with his SVOD service, The Blaze. That service, launched in 2011, came in ahead of Dish Network’s Sling TV in a Parks Associates report ranking U.S. SVOD services based on subscriber numbers.

One of The Blaze’s main audience draws is Tomi Lahren, an outspoken conservative commentator whose video rants on topics including Colin Kaepernick consistently rack up millions of views on Facebook.

As recently pointed out by Mediaite, Lahren expressed displeasure with her current employer, stating that her salary is “crumbs” compared to higher paid Fox pundits and explaining her wish to have an outlet where “no one tells me no.”

Facebook Live has been building up functionality for its video platform in order to better approximate traditional broadcasts. Recently, Facebook added the ability to schedule broadcasts up to a week in advance and also allow viewers to join a lobby ahead of the scheduled broadcast. That gives Facebook Live users the ability to better promote live broadcasts and to better ensure viewers are tuned in from the beginning of a broadcast.

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