This year’s midterm election cycle has brought with it not only a divisive discourse on legislation surrounding gun control and abortion rights, but also a shift in political advertising—making apparent inconsistencies in streaming ad policies long established on linear TV. As eyeballs continue to shift to digital platforms, the impact of streaming TV in the current election cycle could portend a greater shift away from linear in the 2024 presidential race.
“Unlike TV networks, streaming platforms do not need to comply with the 1934 Communications Act, the law that requires broadcasters to provide political advertisers with equal access to the airwaves,” a local TV buyer said via email. This difference complicates the shift of advertisers from linear to streaming as deviations in procedures, including both broader regulation as well as transparency on pricing, occur from platform to platform. It also creates an issue of optics as streaming brands more wholly representative of the major networks handle the political ad approval processes historically done at a local level.
For example, Hulu found itself trending on Twitter last month, not for a popular new show or film, but because of its decision to bar a political ad focused on anti-gun and pro-choice legislation—a decision it later reversed. The ads, which inspired “#BoycottHulu,” were submitted collectively by three Democratic organizations, making calls for voters to take action in the midterm elections on issues of abortion rights and gun control. It wasn’t the first political campaign this year to be rejected by Hulu, as Democratic candidates have employed similar topics as well as imagery from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in their messaging.