Midterms 2018: Politics as a Sporting Event

There are many parallels that can be drawn between live sports and elections. Each has underdogs and reigning favorites, rallying victories and crushing defeats, and for many their allegiance to a team or party is inextricably linked to their identity. It’s no surprise then, that viewers tune in for elections in a similar way as a major sporting event. At the height of the contest, at 9:35pm EST, viewership across Conviva’s streaming TV provider base spiked to 5.96 million peak concurrent plays. Compared to the Super Bowl earlier this year, which netted 5.5 million peak concurrent plays, it appears Americans have a new national pastime.

Just as sports coverage has proliferated across platforms with many digital offerings, a plethora of news organizations provided full live streaming coverage of the midterm elections, many for the first time or with expanded coverage. With the biggest individual publisher win Conviva measured for the night, CNN Digital bested their own midterm 2014 performance with gains in every possible measurement. CNN’s live TV coverage alone saw massive audiences via digital platforms, up 1450%+ from 2014 with 6.4 million total live streams. Similarly timed to Conviva’s overall viewership peak, at 9:40pm EST, CNN peaked with 480,000 concurrent plays.

November 6, 2018 was CNN Digital’s second-biggest election day in history and by far its biggest midterm election ever. Topping all traffic metrics for the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, CNN Digital saw 38 million unique visitors and served 34 million video starts, an increase of 303% from the 2014 midterm elections.

With streaming TV, viewers can catch every second of the action in real-time. This anywhere, anytime viewership has changed the landscape of how people consume media, including during political events. Millions of viewers streamed the 2018 midterms throughout the day, glued to their connected TV for every second, checking in during the work day on their laptop, or catching snippets on social via their smartphone.

A recent Variety article quotes Rachel Smolkin, vice president and executive editor for CNN Politics. “In many ways the midterms set us up for 2020 and the next presidential cycle,” she says. “We are looking to what is useful for our audience and how they are interacting with content in different ways.” It’s clear that streaming TV is no longer a footnote to the larger media strategy, it has become a major part of the equation that will drive news networks forward. At Conviva, we’re excited to measure every second of the evolving landscape.