Dish: Set-tops Forecast Clinton Wins Presidential Election

Anonymized data predict Republicans still control House; Senate too close to call

After DirecTV took a beating over a set-top box glitch that left some conservative newshounds without their Fox News Channel fix last week, the second largest satellite TV service provider – Dish Network – found a more politicized use for the rectangular channel changers, predicting that Hillary Clinton will defeat Donald Trump in the presidential election tomorrow.

Dish predicted Republicans will control the U.S. House of Representatives, but that Democrats should pick up two additional seats. The Senate was too close to call.

DirecTV set the conspiracy wheels spinning last week after its customers lost the HD feed of Fox News, CNN and six other networks for parts of Thursday and Friday.  Some Trump supporters took to the Web to blame the blackout on a liberal conspiracy to block news concerning the republican candidate. DirecTV fixed the problems for most of its customers by Friday afternoon.

Dish didn’t lose service, but it did use set-top box information to glean data to predict the outcome of the election, part of its “Viewers to Voters” initiative.

Through its “Viewers to Voters” predictive model, Dish analyzed the potential outcomes of the 2016 presidential election using anonymized customer viewership data generated from Internet-connected set-tops.  In addition to predicting that Clinton will end up with the requisite 270 electoral votes, the Dish model predicted Republicans would capture 245 our of 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a two-seat gain for Democrats in the 115th Congress.

“With so much focus around national polling, we thought it’d be interesting to see if we could find a correlation between how our customers interact with Dish and how they may vote,” said Dish vice president of media sales, marketing and programming Warren Schlichting in a statement. “We recognize that our call on the distribution of seats in the House may be an outlier. Yet when we tested the model against 2014 House elections, we found that we were able to predict the outcome at a 98 percent reliability point.”

Developed in partnership by Dish’s Data Science and Media Sales divisions, Viewers to Voters is the first project completed under the company’s extra-curricular initiative, “Wisdom of Crowds.” Dish’s Wisdom of Crowds program will explore the potential relationships between TV-viewing behaviors and real world actions.

Viewers to Voters additionally analyzed the relationship between programming watched and political affiliation. The model determined that customers who watched more sports, religious or family-oriented television were more likely to vote Republican. Examples include NFL Football, GEB America’s “Giving Hope, Sharing Life” and PBS’ “Sesame Street.”

In contrast, customers who watched more series/specials, education or music-oriented television were more likely to vote for Democrats. Examples include ABC’s “Scandal,” Discovery’s “MythBusters” and NBC’s “The Voice.”

Dish collected anonymized, aggregated viewership data from millions of set-top across its footprint. It’s Data Science team then took a two-step approach to developing a predictive model for the election.  In the first step involved identifying the relationship between the shows Dish customers watched in 2014 with the state-by-state outcomes of the 2014 House elections. A wide assortment of variables were analyzed including the types and amounts of programming customers viewed across nine different Nielsen-defined genres (e.g. sports, movies, education and series/specials). The second stage of the model then identified the relationship between House party control and presidential party affiliation dating back to 1932.

Dish took this approach to accommodate its relatively young historical viewership data set that dates back only to 2014, when the last House election occurred. The Data Science team did not draw from any outside polls to reach its conclusions. The group expects to enhance its model by introducing hundreds of additional variables for future projects.

DIish also has updated several of its viewing features for Election Day so that customers can optimize their live election coverage experience:

  • Available on Hopper 3, DISH will convert Sports Bar Mode into the Election Newsroom. This multi-channel view divides a 4K or HDTV screen into quadrants, each with the ability to display a different program. When accessed from the channel guide, Election Newsroom will auto-populate CBS, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Customers may tailor this feature to display their favorite four news networks and can easily toggle among the four channels to determine which will play audio.
  • With the recent addition of the YouTube app on Hopper 3, DISH customers can watch live election coverage on YouTube without changing inputs or devices. Starting at 7 p.m. ET, YouTube will feature coverage from top news channels including NBC News, PBS, MTV, Bloomberg, Telemundo and online news network The Young Turks.