A Q&A With C-SPAN Co-CEO Robert Kennedy

Kennedy to discuss network’s role in the evolving political/civic media landscape at upcoming GV Expo, Dec. 7
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WASHINGTON�Robert Kennedy, president and co-CEO for the C-SPAN network, will address the�Government Video Expo�at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7. In his presentation, �The C-SPAN Perspective: Opportunities and Challenges in the Digital Era,� Kennedy, who first spoke at Government Video Expo in 2000, will provide an update on how the network�a non-profit organization primarily financed by the cable industry�has responded to challenges posed by the digital environment and how the network's use of technology has evolved and expanded over the years.

Government Video Editor Tom Butts recently spoke with Kennedy about his upcoming GV Expo address and C-SPAN�s role in providing citizens with access to federal, state and local government and political events.

Government Video:�What is your role at C-SPAN?

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Robert Kennedy:� At C-SPAN, we have co-CEOs, myself and Susan Swain. Susan and I have been in this leadership role together since the late 1980s. We have shared day-to-day operating responsibility for operations at C-SPAN and we've always worked together as a team, but we also each have areas of emphasis. We don't make all decisions together; but we do make the big decisions together. Within our areas of emphasis, we take more of a �hands-on� role: Susan focuses on our content, marketing, communications, and messaging. We joke that Susan is the software side of the company and I'm the hardware side. My areas of emphasis are technology, finance, affiliate relations, and the digital side of the company. Then we work on all strategic issues together.

GV:�What are the most significant changes that have occurred at the network since you last spoke GV Expo in 2000?

RK:�In 2000, I think we had identified a lot of the trends that were going to shape our business and any network, video network business for that matter. Things like broadband, the internet being a way to distribute video content, the importance of respecting your customers' and your viewers' time, because there was so much choice out there, and the way the internet can be used to distribute video. What I don't think we saw was just how much of a change was going to be affected by the internet and broadband. One thing, in particular�nowhere was it in my notes�did we really respect the degree to which mobile would become such an important part of our lives. I look at my notes from 2000 and we talk about putting video online and making it searchable. We did all that. We've got a good story to tell in that regard, but I think the degree of change brought on by the internet was just not something we could see in 2000.

A screenshot of C-SPAN's broadcast of a Facebook Live stream during the near 26-hour sit-in in the House of Representatives.

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GV:�How is social media affecting C-SPAN's coverage?

RK:�There are so many ways. I think there's a couple things. In general, social media is a great two-way conduit with our audience, that allows us to share information about what's going on on the network.

GV:�So you have a very active Facebook presence with your audience?

RK:�We do, both Facebook and Twitter. One way is to let people know what is going on. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are also complimentary ways to distribute our content. We've done some Facebook Live and posted quite a bit on YouTube. There's a great audience within the various social media platforms, to the extent we can put some of our content in front of that audience and say, "This is a sample of what you get on C-SPAN. This is the type of thing that C-SPAN puts on and the way we cover the campaign." It's a great way to inform and attract a new audience. It's also just a great way to listen to your audience. It might be a technical or editorial issue, or it could even be a tweet about the music we play during quorum calls. It's an around-the-clock focus group, and we look at it and regularly review what we're hearing. It's a two-way conversation with our customers, and also a distribution platform.

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GV:�Are there any new technologies C-SPAN is looking to enhance its coverage, such as drones, for example?

RK:�We're doing some preliminary research into drones. We're learning about the requirements. We're looking at the technology, trying to think about how we might fit that into some of our productions as maybe a means to get a reference shot. It's definitely one thing on our list.

GV:�Do you have an app?

RK:�We have a�radio app�where you can listen to the audio of all three C-SPAN television networks and our radio station here in Washington. We have not done a video app. We made our website mobile-friendly, and felt that focusing on the website and the video library was where we should be right now because of our goal to provide public service through access to this content. We have the audio app, which is a live steaming app, we have the website, which is video on-demand and also mobile-friendly. That's where we are right now. We've talked a little about what an app should look like, and whether or not there is a value added, something we can do in an app, that we're not doing right now, either well on the video side or the audio side.

To register for Government Video/National Drone Show, Dec. 6-8 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., visit�www.gvexpo.com.

Read the full Q&A on TVT's website.�