TV-News Reaches Beyond TV Screen for Trump’s ‘State of the Union’

Donald Trump

The usual array of ABC News anchors will greet viewers at 9  p.m. eastern tonight on ABC. The will deliver the typical preliminary remarks about President Donald Trump’s first official address to Congress about his legislative agenda. And afterwards, they will offer just what viewers have come to expect: post-speech analysis.

But at 8:15 at ABCNews.com, a different team of correspondents from the news outlet will be seen hanging out with viewers at a bar.

While George Stephanopoulous, David Muir and Martha Raddatz, among others, hold down a traditional TV broadcast, Amna Nawaz, Devin Dwyer, Rick Klein and Tara Palmieri will interview college students and other interested parties whose first inclination at a moment of national import may not be to sit down in front of a traditional TV screen.

“We like to make the assumption that much of our audience is on the go. They are out and about, but intensely interested in the world around them,” says Katie Nelson, an executive producer of news content at ABC News, who will be involved with the outlet’s live-streaming efforts. “We don’t want talk at them. We want to talk with them.”

Some TV-news outlets are working to change the state of play for tonight’s “State of the Union,” mindful that there’s a growing populace of tech-savvy viewers who have different expectations for special news reports.

Yes, NBC News aficionados will see Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, Megyn Kelly and Andrea Mitchell on TV at 9 p.m. this evening. But YouTube users might stumble upon at 8 p.m. live-stream led by NBC News’ Steve Kornacki and Katy Tur. The pair are expected to discuss viral moments from past addresses and share presidential trivia, among other things. It is NBC News’ first YouTube live-stream around a “State of the Union.”

Simply put, the share of Americans getting news online regularly is growing while those doing the same with TV is falling, according to an August survey conducted by Pew Research Center. The organization found 43% of Americans reporting frequent access to news from online sources, compared with 50% saying they often got news from TV – a gap of just 7 percentage points. In early 2016, the margin was 19 percentage points, according to Pew – more than twice as big.

Other news outlets are dipping a toe in these waters. Bloomberg L.P., which recently launched Tic-Toc, a video newscast delivered via Twitter, intends to kick off coverage there at 8:45 p.m., with a real-time curation of Twitter conversations about the event. During the speech, hosts will analyze Twitter sentiment about Trump’s address.

The digital formats bring with them different requirements. At ABC, producers are eager to communicate with potential viewers on Twitter, asking them to send questions to which they’d like answers, says Nelson, the producer. “We will be doing our best to provide background and research and fact-check as it all comes up,” she adds.

CBS News will be providing hours of “State of the Union” coverage on CBSN, the news unit’s streaming service. Starting at 5 p.m., Elaine Quijano and Alex Wagner will anchor special coverage from New York, with contributions from CBS News’ political reporters and contributors in D.C. CBSN will also incorporate reports from local journalists across the country, including Nevada, Missouri, Florida and Ohio. At 9 p.m, CBSN will simulcast CBS News network coverage. Just as CBS is likely to make way for local news, CBSN will offer more analysis after 11.

Cable-news networks will also offer digital programing. Fox News Channel will live-blog the entire event, starting at 8 p.m. eastern., and live-stream video of the speech at 9. CNN intends to live-stream its special TV coverage around the event to the CNN.com homepage and through its app to mobile devices.

Because live-streams don’t have to end on the hour or half-hour to accommodate other programs, commercial breaks or station affiliates, the networks have room to be flexible.  The correspondents and anchors can hang around, more often than not, as long as they feel they have something to say, says ABC’s Nelson.  “We will stay up as long as it takes to deliver a good show,” says Nelson.