It’s a sign of the streaming times: The Democratic National Committee is requiring all of its TV network partners to live-stream primary debates on the web.
NBC, the first network partner, said Thursday that its two-night debate will be available on its websites and on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The debates will take place next Wednesday and Thursday.
Television networks generally make their debates widely available on the web, anyway. But it is telling that the Democrats made this a requirement for this election cycle. It is a testament to the fact that more and more viewing is happening on streaming platforms.
“We have asked all of our potential partners to stream the debate for free, and they have agreed,” a DNC spokeswoman told CNN Business. “Everyone understands that the more viewers, the better — and that has always been our north star. This was not required in 2016.”
These sorts of arrangements sometimes have to be negotiated between television networks and the distribution companies that pay handsomely for their programming.
That’s why cable networks such as Fox News and CNN limit the amount of live programming that can be streamed without a cable or satellite subscription. This is known in the TV business as “authentication.”
CNN led the way, years ago, with wide-open live streams of special events such as debates. Most other networks do the same.
This year, in the discussions with potential debate partners, the DNC wanted to ensure that the streams would be available on an unauthenticated basis.
NBC’s debate — simulcast on MSNBC and Telemundo — will be followed by two nights of debates on CNN’s networks in July and two nights of debates on ABC and Univision in September.
For the networks and the candidates, a greater number of viewing options means a bigger potential audience.
Research shows that young voters are particularly likely to prefer streams on mobile devices and computers.
The party’s live-streaming strategy also has the effect of making the debates seem like bigger events. Twitter, for example, live-streamed the general election debates in 2016, but has never had a live-stream of a primary season presidential debate until now.