While much of the nation last night was focused on the final presidential debate between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the Trump campaign was busy rolling out what appeared to be a beta test of Trump TV on Facebook.
There have been reports for some time now that the former reality TV star is working on a Trump media venture to be rolled out if he loses the election. But Wednesday night was the first sign of anything that looked like an actual content play.
Just after the debate began, Trump’s official Facebook page posted a notice that said the campaign was streaming live using Facebook’s video service.
“If you’re tired of biased, mainstream media reporting (otherwise known as Crooked Hillary’s super PAC), tune into my Facebook Live broadcast,” the message said. “Starts at 8:30 EST/5:30 PST — you won’t want to miss it. Enjoy!”
According to a report by BuzzFeed News, the broadcast had about 200,000 concurrent viewers early in the evening. But halfway through the debate, there were about 170,000 watching.
The Trump campaign has done some live-streaming during the election, but the Wednesday night version had the feel of a TV-style offering, with guests and hosts similar to a Fox News (fox) program. The campaign also refers to its broadcasts collectively as “#TrumpTV.”
The stream had interviews with a retired general, a former Arizona governor, and appearances by several Trump family members, along with some pro-Trump ads.
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Two hosts from the conservative Right Side Broadcasting Network did a pre- and post-debate show, according to Politico, in which the mantra often repeated was “the mainstream media is against us.” One of the hosts described the debate as “the greatest Republican debate performance since Abraham Lincoln.”
The latest word was that his son-in-law, Observer publisher Jared Kushner, had met with veteran media-industry advisor Aryeh Bourkoff of LionTree Advisors.
When CNN media reporter Brian Stelter ran into Trump advisor Steve Bannon in Las Vegas on Wednesday night and asked about a Trump media venture, the founder of the conservative commentary site Breitbart News simply said the candidate “is an entrepreneur,” and talked about his large following on social media.
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Industry analysts say the odds that Trump would be able to start a traditional Fox News-style cable channel or network are small because such an effort would require a substantial investment, and many previous attempts have failed. However, some believe Trump could use Facebook Live and other digital, over-the-top services to go directly to his fan base, and build a digital-only service similar to what conservative commentator Glenn Beck has been able to create with The Blaze.
The biggest problem for a Trump TV venture, according to a former Fox News executive, is that mainstream advertisers would likely avoid it like the plague.
“There’s a little issue of advertising,” Sandy Grushow, former chairman of Fox Television Entertainment Group, told CNBC. “Most big brand advertisers would avoid it like the plague. The last thing anyone is looking for is controversy for fear of being boycotted.”