CNN will stream the four presidential and vice-presidential debates in October live online and to mobile devices for free -- and is hoping to get viral traction by letting website visitors “clip-and-share” video from the high-profile events.
The news network will offer unrestricted access to five hours of its presidential debate programming through CNN.com and via CNN’s apps for iPhone and iPad. CNN’s digital coverage will run 7 PM to midnight Eastern on Oct. 3, 11, 16 and 22, to be available to anyone with an Internet or mobile connection.
In addition, viewers watching the debates on CNN.com can capture and share live TV video clips on the fly and share them within their social media circles using new "clip-and-share" editing features.
The clip-and-share video editing features provide DVR-like controls, allowing users to fast-forward and rewind to select start and end points from the live feed. The clips can then be shared directly through Facebook and Twitter, via embed code for blogs and websites or via links for email, LinkedIn or Google+.
“Presidential debates shouldn’t be a passive activity for viewers,” CNN Digital senior vice president K.C. Estenson said in announcing the plans. “Because of their global significance, CNN will offer the stream to all cnn.com users and provide everyone the opportunity to view, share and participate in the debates this fall.”
CNN said it will use the same technology to stream the debates that powers the TV Everywhere access to its 24-hour live feed to cable, satellite and telco subscribers. The Turner-owned network has authentication deals with pay-TV providers including Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse.
The Web video will be available in a 768-by-432 HD video player and include closed captioning at cnn.com/debates. The subsite also will feature companion content including a live blog, on-demand videos and articles, candidate profiles, social media integrations and a “social buzz” meter.
Consumers outside the U.S. will be able to watch the debates on CNN's iOS apps and from the U.S. edition of CNN.com.
The online and mobile stream will include a predebate show, which will include the same commercial breaks as on TV but with a digital ad load featuring ads from CNN's multiplatform election coverage sponsors. Those include AT&T, Cisco Systems, ExxonMobil, GM's Cadillac, railroad operator Norfolk Southern, America's Natural Gas Alliance, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and American Petroleum Institute.
Once users initialize the online-video player to watch the debate, they will see a preroll with companion display ads from one of the election sponsors (on a rotating basis) but within the stream of the actual debate there will not be any ad breaks.
CNN is still actively pitching sponsorships for the free streaming debate coverage, spokeswoman Deb McBride said.