The Recount debuts streaming news show on Twitch

Illustration of a gaming metaverse.

The Recount, a three-year-old news organization founded by journalists John Battelle and John Heilemann, is debuting a three-hour-long, daily live news show on Twitch today, Digiday has learned.

“Recount Live” is hosted by journalists Mosheh Oinounou and Liz Plank. The show will be a mix of Oinounou and Plank presenting the news and audience interaction from live chats between the hosts, Recount producers and viewers to discuss stories of the day in real time. Topics will cover the intersection of power and areas like politics, culture, business, technology, entertainment and sports.

The show will air live exclusively on Twitch, with clips from the show distributed on other platforms like YouTube. The Recount will make money from the show through pre-roll and mid-roll advertising and from direct consumer revenue via Twitch’s subscription tiers, as part of the platform’s affiliate program. 

The Recount said Twitch takes a 50% cut of ad revenue generated from the live show, but declined to share how much Twitch is paying The Recount for hosting the show on the platform.

Twitch might seem like an unusual choice for a news show, given that the platform’s audience and “streamers” are mostly dedicated to gaming. However, Battelle said The Recount team chose Twitch as a platform to launch their live streaming show because it’s “the most evolved platform for community and audience interaction” — with a mix of revenue streams that allows for streamers to make money directly from their community as well as via advertising.

Twitch has other publishers streaming on the platform, such as Rolling Stone and The Washington Post, though the former has primarily focused on entertainment content on Twitch, while the latter has only streamed nine times on Twitch this year.

Doing it live

Originally delayed by the wave of omicron COVID-19 cases earlier this year, The Recount team of about 80 employees were able to gather in the office in February to work on producing and rehearsing the new show. However, piloting a live show can’t really be done until it’s live. The first month on air will be a way to test out the live format for “Recount Live.” 

At the heart of the show will be audience interaction, and the hosts are no strangers to the two-way conversations on social media platforms. Oinounou has over 240,000 followers on Instagram and Plank over 325,000. And both journalists often go live on Instagram — Oinounou has a weekly live news show and Plank often interviews notable figures on timely subjects. 

Grace Weinstein, The Recount’s community producer and host, will also be a part of the conversations with the hosts and its audience. Producers will flag comments for the broadcast, while Oinounou and Plank respond in real time. Hosts will call out people from the chat to answer questions and have a dialogue with viewers, Battelle said. The Recount will weave audience interaction throughout the duration of the show. 

In a few months’ time, The Recount plans to extend the length of “Recount Live” to add an additional three hours to the show, which may get broken up into multiple streams throughout the day. The publisher is developing other franchises on the Twitch platform as well, including a game show called “Chatterbrain” where hosts compete against the audience.

Twitchy advertisers

Down the line, Battelle wants to secure deals with brands to sponsor the show, such as in “an open” before the live conversations or for product placement in the live streams. He also sees opportunities to co-create branded segments around “Recount Live.” 

Marketing for the show will kick up next month when the team heads to the IAB NewFronts next month — a forum for media companies to present their video programming to advertisers — Battelle said. 

At media agency MMI, brand clients are primarily running ads within Twitch livestreams, according to group director Dana Busick. UM, another media agency, is additionally integrating its clients’ products into live streams, such as a streamer eating a food item sponsored by a brand partner.

For advertisers, the draw of the live stream format is it is engaging by nature, “so we know we are capturing attention,” said Molly Schultz, svp, integrated investment at UM, who declined to name any clients involved.

But advertisers still have to be careful in a live environment. “There’s always a risk when it comes to live streaming, so we still have to be vigilant,” Busick said.

Schultz agreed: “With live and chats, you just don’t know what humans are going to do.”

However, both Busick and Schultz noted Twitch’s keyword blocking and targeting can alleviate most of these concerns. And while some brands might be adverse to appearing next to news, Twitch’s reputation of being more brand safe than other platforms “can open that door a little bit” to advertisers, Busick said.

Busick noted Twitch’s adherence to removing ads from creators’ streams if they violate the platform’s brand safety policy. “We feel very comfortable on the platform. [Twitch] is very brand safe focused… It’s heavily monitored,” she said.

While both Busick and Schultz said that Twitch is doing more to draw a broader audience (such as streaming Thursday Night Football and the NCAA basketball tournament), the main audience of young viewers on the platform remains focused on gaming. Nearly 75% of Twitch’s viewers are between the ages of 16 and 34, according to its website.

The challenge for “Recount Live” might be that the hosts are not gamers or Twitch creators, so there may be a “disconnect with the audience” at first, Schultz said.

But these challenges are welcomed by Battelle and his plans to experiment with television news formats.

“April is the sandbox month,” he said, adding, “We are going to learn from the audience. If 25% drops off after topic x, we will have to figure out how to talk about topic x in a different way, or move on to topic y. [Twitch’s analytics] can tell us what people are interested in.”

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