Election fever boosts online video strategy for Sinclair, Sling TV, Burst, but not ad dollars

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With the presidential election less than a week away, online video is increasingly coming into play among both users and the media and entertainment industry.

But all the interest around this year’s election may not necessarily be translating to advertising dollars. Sinclair Broadcast Group said in its third-quarter earnings presentation on Wednesday that it saw $45 million in political advertising, according to TVNewsCheck. That number is key to its quarterly growth, but lower than anticipated “due to the unique nature of this year’s presidential election and certain contested senate races not materializing.”

At the same time, digital revenues went up 25 percent year over year for the broadcasting group.

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Still, online video is playing a key role in media coverage. Case in point is Burst, an OTT startup based in Boston with a business model built around quickly making user-generated content available to news outlets. The company announced a deal that will see Sinclair-owned stations encouraging users in their area to send in their videos of polling places on election day using the Burst app. Local stations will then broadcast the videos under the branding, “Join Vote 2016.”

Burst founder and CEO Bryant McBride told the Boston Business Journal that the intent of Join Vote 2016 is to get more coverage onto television stations. With a contentious atmosphere already in place, McBride sees user-generated video as a way to put a spotlight “on incidents, on activities, on encounters” that may take place outside polling areas.

McBride did say that both Burst and Sinclair were making certain to inform users about laws around filming in local districts. While the effort has the potential to spark some controversy in battleground states, McBride felt the media campaign wouldn’t make a noticeable difference other than to ensure additional coverage for local stations.

Sling TV, in the meantime, has added TheBlaze to its News Extra add-on pack. The independent OTT network founded by Glenn Beck is available to the linear streaming service’s Orange and Blue tier customers who pay the additional $5 monthly rate to get a package of news networks. Noting in a blog post that the channel is coming aboard “just in time for the Presidential election,” Sling may be hoping to add a little extra spark to its lineup – and spur new subscriptions – with the addition of the network.

Networks including ABC and CBS, as well as cable networks such as MSNBC, are dedicating more live streaming to the election. For example, ABC has a dedicated election page that includes on-demand video, polls and written analysis, in addition to its live streaming website. PBS, likewise, has an election page with on-demand video and audio streams available.

As it has done throughout the 2016 election, online video is continuing to play a central role in providing new and on-demand content as viewers ponder which candidate to vote for.

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