Midterm Elections Send NBC News to TikTok, Livestreaming

On Election Night, NBC News will split its own ticket.

Yes, viewers can see Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell hold forth on NBC proper. But they might also seek out a growing array of programming on digital venues.

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Though NBC News has had a presence on TikTok since 2019, the unit is for the first time dispatching personnel to provide real-time reporting to the venue’s users says Catherine Kim, senior vice president of global digital news. NBC News can tap any of its journalists to deliver a quick hit, recut a piece of video that ran elsewhere, or, says Kim, ramp up new efforts to tell users if misinformation is circulating. A series,  #NBCdebunks, aims to give the TikTok audience facts in the face of false stories circulating on the app.

“It’s going to be a real priority,” says Kim, of the growing TikTok effort. “We will have a team in 30 Rock sitting next to all the editorial teams that are working on Election Night and into the early morning for us.”

Digital efforts also encompass preliminary programming on NBC News Now, the NBCUniversal news unit’s livestreaming service. On Election Night, viewers can see early evening coverage led by anchors Hallie Jackson and Tom Llamas, and a simulcast of NBC News primetime programming.

Midterm elections usually herald an uptick of interest in the TV networks’ news coverage, a much-anticipated reversal of viewership trends after a presidential election. With more viewers turning to streaming and social-media, however, TV-news outlets can’t just bet on TV. NBC emphasized the importance of its digital efforts this weekend by running a promo for NBC News Now’s election coverage during “Sunday Night Football,” the network’s most-watched program. Promos have also run during broadcasts of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Saturday Night Live.” “The Voice,” “Law and Order,” “Chicago Med,” and several sports broadcasts.

But this year’s efforts also include new scrutiny of ballots and voting, a testament to the election denialism that sprouted up around the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capital that sought to prevent its results from being ratified.

ABC News plans to operate a “ballot watch desk,” manned by  chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas, senior national correspondent Terry Moran, chief legal analyst Dan Abrams and contributor Kate Shaw, all monitoring storylines related to election integrity in partnership with the Brennan Center at the NYU School of Law, a nonpartisan, independent organization. On Fox News Channel, Shannon Bream will use a new, immersive touch screen to report on proprietary Fox News  survey of early and Election Day voters conducted in all 50 states by the nonpartisan research organization NORC at the University of Chicago for Fox News and the Associated Press.

CBS News has already unveiled a “Democracy Desk,” with three correspondents will be on standby to call attention to hiccups in voting procedures, and whether law-enforcement authorities are seeing any threats to poll workers.

“It’s table stakes now to have that kind of a team,” says NBC News’ Kim.

Such efforts underscore a growing need to provide vetted information in real time, where digital lives, not just in primetime. “We need to make sure we are there in all places to give people a reliable place for information,” says Janelle Rodriguez, the NBC News senior vice president who oversees NBC News Now. “We have dozens of people fanning out across the country, on the ground, at polling places, at Secretary of State offices so people have access to vetted reporting and information they can count on.”

The big question for the digital outreach is whether all of it can be monetized. Much of the news networks’ livestreaming efforts are underpinned by advertising or subscriptions. Some of the experiments, however, are so new that they are not supported quite yet by financial models.

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