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The end of the debate: Why streaming TV and politics no longer mix

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Photo: Kenny Eliason

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by Tim Mulligan

The “entertainmentisation” of Western politics has successfully re-energised political discourse after decades of consensus politics and has resulted in policy making that has negatively impacted voters, both economically and environmentally. 

From a streaming TV perspective, this makes election coverage a problematic asset. The entertainmentisation of political coverage is now visibly costing voters. Younger, more digitally empowered consumers are increasingly bypassing established political discourse in favour of direct action through demonstrations, commercial boycotts, and symbolic acts of protest. Evidence of this disconnect comes from the ratings for last week’s US presidential debate, which were lower than the 2020 contest.

News matters for streaming TV –– but not as entertainment

As MIDiA identified in “The Case for News in Video D2C Services, news has a central role to play in streaming TV. It is the last pillar of traditional pay-TV to transition into the streaming TV era through inclusion in direct-to-consumer (D2C) services such as Peacock, YouTube TV, and Paramount+. 

News has been reignited by the return to current affairs as a need-to-know rather than a nice-to-know content genre for consumers. The relative political calmness that contextualised the first 20-plus years of the internet has been shown to be an aberration, and the headspace for individuals to indulge in on-demand pure entertainment has diminished as a consequence. At the same time, the division of news has underlined two important facts. Firstly, there is an obvious opportunity to serving the growing tribalism of politics with overt partisanship. Secondly, and as a direct result, there is a need for a new non-partisan approach to news distribution beyond the predominately ad-supported model of traditional pay TV.This push towards news becoming relevant is happening at the same time that D2C services are increasingly focusing upon retention (news as a daily active user driver is well established in traditional TV), and the macro trend towards de-entertainmentisation of politics. Ultimately, this means less debating and more delivering of actionable political and current affairs insight for streaming TV.

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