Record-breaking figures for digital in Election Week, outperforming TV

Record-breaking figures for digital across major news channels, far outperforming 2016’s election, highlights the rise of streaming compared to traditional TV.

The Takeaways:
  • CNN had its best week ever for digital traffic last week. CNN’s coverage of Joe Biden’s acceptance speech saw an average audience of 947k users live-streaming the average minute. This was the highest digital average audience for CNN on record.  TV plus digital live streaming produced a combined average audience of 14.555 million total viewers.
  • Close contests throughout the weeks in several battleground states also spurred high television news viewership. Fox News was the highest-rated cable news channel on Tuesday night, while CNN took first place on Wednesday and Thursday, reflecting a widespread interest in the minute by minute vote-counting coverage.
  • However, overall television viewership of the prime time election coverage was down from 2016, with live news streaming traffic firmly up, according to Akamai.
A win for Digital

Election Week 2020 produced CNN Digital’s best days ever in terms of unique visitors and live video viewers.

  • CNN’s live story and CNN’s Election Center saw record-breaking unique visitors – far outpacing 2016 audience levels.
  • According to Akamai – the content delivery network company, streaming traffic peaked at a point that was around five times greater than traffic on a typical day, and more than double the 2016 election night peak.
  • CNN Digital recorded 67 million-plus unique visitors on Tuesday 3rd November and nearly double, 116 million, on Wednesday 4th.
Appetite for News

The inconclusive results early in election week drove audiences en masse to major news sources.

  • Through midday Friday, NBC News Digital amassed nearly 500 million total views “across all video and election content since the start of the election,” an NBC spokeswoman said.
  • CBS News also set new records for total minutes watched on each day on its streaming service.
  • On the web, The Washington Post said that on Wednesday the Post website had its “highest number of pageviews in history by over 40%.” According to a Post spokeswoman, the news outlet has also “dramatically increased our international reach” this week, “more than doubling readership among users in countries including Canada, the UK and Australia.”
Surge in Streaming

The increase in traffic between 2016 and 2020 was not only due to heightened interest globally in this election, according to Harish Menon—senior director, Global Broadcast Operations, and Customer Events at Akamai.

  • “Also, more consumers than ever are streaming video, a trend that’s gained even greater momentum this year because of pandemic-related safety measures that are keeping people at home,” said Menon. “Finally, not only are more people streaming video; they’re enjoying higher levels of picture quality compared to four years ago, which is delivered at higher bitrates—meaning more data.”

The roll-up: The elections produced some striking results all round, but for the publishing industry, it underscored that the future is digital.

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