We Livestreamed Wendy Davis. They Talked Baked Goods.
While cable news channels analyzed the caloric impact of blueberry muffins on a Tuesday night in June, The Texas Tribune brought the world some serious reality TV drama — a Democratic state senator’s 11-hour filibuster of an anti-abortion bill. Our filibuster livestream went completely viral; by midnight, and into the filibuster’s 11th hour, we had more than 183,000 people watching from 187 countries. That’s right: a scrappy, public service news org had the best night in television – more viewers than many cable news networks had at that time.
Livestreaming the Filibuster Was Only the Beginning
We’re proud that our filibuster livestream enabled hundreds of thousands of people to engage with the political process as it was unfolding. But now that we have a taste of the tremendous impact of real-time video, we want to make all the video we produce – and that is a ton of video – livestream-friendly. Our goal is to provide our ace journalists with new, cutting edge livestreaming hardware that will enable them to be the world’s real-time, unfiltered eyes on Texas politics whenever and wherever it’s happening.
What We Need
Livestreaming video is an expensive hardware proposition. With a one-time investment, however, we can augment our existing HD cameras and editing set-up to make most everything we do livestream enabled. Here’s what we need to make that happen:
LiveU LU70 – The heart of our “satellite backpack,” this small but expensive box lets us transmit HD video over multiple cellular networks. In other words, no matter where our reporters are, we can livestream their reporting on our own network to the world in real time.
TriCaster 455 – An integrated switcher and encoder for live events. This impressive, portable device lets us create and stream studio-quality, multi-camera productions in the field.
We also need a bunch of cables, cases to protect the gear in the field, and a durable laptop for production, but the LiveU and TriCaster are the big ticket items standing between us and livestreaming most everything we do.
Many eyes around the world are on Texas and not only because of Wendy Davis. Our governor is a national figure who's run for president before and may do so again. In D.C., Texas' elected officials certainly make their positions known on federal issues. Lastly, policy decisions made here on a range of topics – immigration, health care, education and energy, to name several – reverberate around the nation.
To put a finer point on it, regardless of how you feel about Texas politics and policy, what happens here impacts the nation. With the race for Texas governor just starting, the time could not be more ripe for us to livestream the candidates, the campaigns and the decisions that will affect the nation for years to come.
Several Republican candidates, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, have declared their candidacy for governor, and Davis is running on the Democratic ticket. The next 14 months in Texas will be huge politically speaking, which is why we want to amp up our livestreaming abilities right now, so we can be the state's and the nation's real-time eyes on what's sure to be a historic election in November 2014.
What We'll Do
With this new equipment, we will livestream a full year of intense 2014 election coverage. We already have the crackerjack reporting and data teams covering the candidates, the issues, the campaigns, the finances, the debates – everything, in other words. We just don't have the ability to livestream it.
Over the next 14 months we will deliver the following livestream events:
20 TribLives with politicians and policy makers – These are our signature, free events held around the state before a live audience, who can ask their own questions of the candidates and officials. Nov. 2013 - Nov. 2014
Two live symposiums – An extended version of our TribLive events with a full day focused on a particular topic, such as water, health care or transportation. Spring and Summer 2014
Eight live one-on-one interviews with candidates – As our reporters and editors ask tough questions of the candidates vying for statewide office, you'll be there with us in real time. Oct. 2013 – Aug. 2014
25 live campaign events – Candidates often make news and occasionally speak candidly while campaigning on the road. We'll be there to show it live. Nov. 2013 - Nov. 2014
Live primary and election night coverage – As the primary and general election votes come in, we will have reporters livestreaming from the field and our newsroom. March 2013 and Nov. 2014
These events will be viewable in real time on our site and on LiveStream. Afterwards, all videos will be viewable on demand on our site and YouTube.
Tribune Livestream Goodies
While the real prize is the transparency and immediacy you'll bring to Texas politics throughout the 2014 elections and beyond, you'll also receive some sweet Tribune goodies for your pledges.
Note: We just added the livestream button. Backers at any level – even $1 – receive the button. We can't change the reward descriptions in the middle of the campaign, but rest assured that anyone in the U.S. who contributes a buck or more will receive a livestream button, along with any other rewards that come with your pledge level. At the very least, give a dollar, get a button!
Just Added – Livestreaming How-to Webinar
Based on multiple requests since we've started this Kickstarter campaign, we are adding a new deliverable to the above items. Once we hit our goal, we will host a free webinar teaching you how to livestream.
This three-part online series will walk you through the steps required to establish your own livestream. Featuring the Trib folks behind our abortion debate livestream, we'll break the series into three parts: technical, editorial and marketing. Each segment will be heavy on details, delineating what you need to know to start, manage and promote your own livestream.
Our goal is to demystify the livestreaming process and give you the information and confidence you need to launch your own livestream, whether you have a small, guerrilla operation or a large, multi-camera set-up. Our goal is to share what we've learned and help other folks leverage the power of live, unfiltered video streaming in their communities.
We Know Politics & Video Reporting
While the world tuned in to our livestream of the filibuster, we’re no Johnny-come-lately to political drama like this. We provide gavel-to-gavel livestreaming of all Texas House and Senate floor debates, as well as hundreds of hours of other nonpartisan political coverage each year. But as a small, nonprofit outfit, we don’t control livestreams like the filibuster. Right now, our livestream is at the mercy of the same state lawmakers we’re trying to cover. They control our ability to plug into their video system; they can cut the audio, or the picture, whenever they want — and there’s nothing we can do to stop them.
Case in point: When the clock ran out on the abortion filibuster, the Texas Senate muted the sound on the livestream, even though the Capitol was erupting in chaos and the outcome of the filibuster was far from certain. Thus, viewers around the world were effectively locked out of the event.
The Tribune is investing in its video hardware and services to make sure no one can ever cut off our live coverage. We’re raising funds for the technology to livestream — from anywhere, at any time — on our terms, not theirs.
Risks and challenges
The Texas Tribune produces hundreds of hours of video each year. From live, public hot seats with elected officials to reporting, interviews and short-form documentaries, we know how to make good video content. However, due to hardware and technical limitations, livestreaming that content is the exception rather than the rule. We want to reverse that.
As we proved with the Texas Senate filibuster, we are certainly capable of not only livestreaming video content but doing it in a way that’s stable and scalable, no matter how many people are watching. Figuring that part out is a big risk we’ve already solved. The challenge now is acquiring the right equipment to livestream more of our work. This Kickstarter campaign provides resources to acquire that equipment and a year’s worth of additional bandwidth required by live video.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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