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Political Ads Blitz Streaming Services as 2020 Election Season Heats Up

Fern Siegel

It’s an election year — which means viewers will be bombarded with ads — with a catch. As more viewers turn to streamers, they are vulnerable to a barrage of political ads that aren’t regulated. That’s got watchdog groups and campaign experts concerned — since digital providers aren’t required, like traditional broadcasters, to embrace more transparency, reports The Washington Post.

That means viewers of ad-supported streaming services may get political ads that skirt federal-election laws.

“At a time when our adversaries are using disinformation campaigns to undermine our democracy, we need to be pushing for more disclosure and transparency, not less,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a White House contender, said in a statement.

For example, The Washington Post cites an ad that ran during the comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” on Hulu. According to The Post, the ad shows footage of President Trump then a narrator says, “The ‘deep state’ is trying to inject our health system with socialist price controls.” The ad includes a banner at the bottom of the screen with the words “TEXT ‘SOCIALISM SUCKS’ TO 41490.”

However, “neither FreedomWorks, the conservative group behind the ad, nor Hulu, is required to reveal much more to the public about the 30-second spot or whom it targeted,” The Post writes, and “voters remain vulnerable to manipulation.”

Streaming services also give political advertisers an opportunity to reach a younger audience. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, per Federal Election Commission records, showered ads on Hulu and Roku, notes The Post. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has already blitzed ads on movie and TV streaming sites.

Research company eMarketer forecasts that political ads could surpass $6 billion on television, search, social media and other digital platforms by November. A portion of the $40 million digital ad campaign launched in January by Democratic super PAC Priorities USA is focusing on streamers, including Hulu, The Post said.

Trump’s reelection campaign is also on the move. It has already secured a takeover of YouTube on Election Day. The deal, first reported by Bloomberg News, will make Trump the exclusive advertiser on YouTube’s homepage in early November leading up to and through Election Day on Nov. 3.

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