Media

Fringe party presidential debate gives online news sites a chance to shine

Image Credit: illustration by Tom Cheredar
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While major TV news networks are almost entirely devoted to discussion of the 2012 presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, a handful of online streaming services are offering coverage of the fringe candidates — aka the people who have no chance of actually winning the election in November.

Iconic broadcast news host Larry King is moderating a debate tomorrow (6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET) that features Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson. King solicited questions for the debate from several online communities, with Reddit being the most popular.

The Third-Party debate is unlikely to bring in even a fraction of the viewership of the Obama/Romney debate, which is exactly why you won’t find a live stream from any of the major cable and broadcast news organizations. You will, however, be able to watch the fringe party debate live on Ora.tv (via its YouTube Channel), Al Jazeera English, and a few other news sites (like, oddly enough, The Hollywood Reporter) using Ora.tv’s livestream player.

“The audience for third-party candidates is under served,” Ora.tv CEO Jon Housman told VentureBeat in an interview. That gives Ora.tv an opportunity to step-up, which the streaming video news site is more than happy to do.

“We think (the fringe party candidate debate) is important, and it plays to Larry’s strengths.” He added that King, who currently hosts Ora.tv’s Larry King Now news program, does have a history of highlighting diverse opinions. Perhaps the best example of this is King’s introduction of third-party candidate Ross Perot to the 1992 presidential election.

Housman admitted that the debate isn’t “a goldmine for us,” but said it made perfect sense for Larry to cover it for the streaming video news site. Ora.tv is also producing a pre-debate show, also hosted by King, that will give some background on each of the four candidates and offer up some background on what viewers can expect.

King also covered each of the three Romney/Obama debates, but went with a post-debate show that drilled into the candidate’s responses. By comparison, King’s Third-Party debate show serves a different purpose and works better before.

“Third-Party candidates usually answer questions more directly, maybe because they have nothing to lose and nothing to hide. You don’t have to parse (their responses) as finely as you do with Romney and Obama,” Housman said.

Since this sounds like a far higher quality debate than the three Romney/Obama debates, I’d expect it would make for interesting television. Housman said he wasn’t sure why broadcast and cable networks weren’t covering it for that reason alone. My guess is that it’s purely a business decision, since anything that doesn’t include the two major party candidates won’t generate enough revenue to justify the resources.