President Barack Obama will deliver his eighth and final State of the Union address Tuesday night. For the first time, the White House will make the historic speech available to watch live online not only on the White House site and YouTube — the usual outlets for the first United States president to fully embrace social media and the generation of Americans who essentially live on the internet — but on Amazon Instant Video as well.
The additional outlet means that the latest and last Obama State of the Union address will likely reach its largest online audience and will be easier to access via computer, smartphone, tablet, and even set-top internet streaming devices — specifically the Amazon Fire device — than any State of the Union speech in history.
The online outlets will be joined by the live streams of traditional cable news outlets CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News in bringing the speech to a mostly younger, more mobile demographic that prefers to engage with news online rather than simply receive news broadcasts from the “old media” television networks that once dominated all conversation regarding national and public affairs.
“For those who’ve cut the cord from cable and network TV: Whether you use a smart TV, web browser, mobile device, or tablet there’s a way for you to watch the President’s speech as it happens and on-demand,” White House Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman wrote earlier this week in an online blog post describing how Obama’s Office of Digital Strategy is getting ready for Tuesday’s big event.
Obama will begin his final State of the Union address at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, 6 p.m. Pacific, in the House of Representatives Chamber in the United States Capitol Building in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, January 12. To find out how to watch the speech live online, see the streaming links in the final paragraph of this article.
Following the address, the president will reach out even more directly to the online audience, sitting for an interview with three top YouTube stars: fashion critic Ingrid Nilsen, video game video-blogger Adande Thorne, and educational video creator Destin Sandlin.
Nilsen, 26, gained the notice of the online community, and consequently the White House, when she posted the below video last year, in which she came out publicly as gay.
The move to expand the online accessibility of the speech is designed to bring the always-important State of the Union, in which a president spells out his policy priorities for the year and attempts to set a unifying national tone for his administration, to a wider, digitally connected audience in an era where the television audience for the State of the Union speech has declined sharply.
The first State of the Union address delivered by Bill Clinton in 1993 was watched on TV by about 70 million viewers, coming at the tail end of the pre-internet era. Obama’s first address after he took office in 2009 was watched by 52.4 million.
But by 2015, Obama’s seventh State of the Union drew a television viewership of just 31.7 million across 13 over-the-air and cable news networks. That number was barely more than Clinton’s final address, in 2000, which was watched by 31.5 million.
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Obama first offered an “enhanced” online live stream of his State of the Union address is 2011, a landmark in how the speech has reached the public. But his predecessor, George W. Bush, can claim credit for first taking the speech online, with a White House webcast of his 2002 speech — more than three years before YouTube existed. Bush was also the first president to deliver a State of the Union televised in high definition in 2004.
The first televised State of the Union was delivered by President Harry S. Truman in 1947. But the speech did not move into TV’s evening prime-time hours until 1965 for the second State of the Union delivered by President Lyndon B. Johnson. That was the speech in which Johnson laid out most of what came to be called his “Great Society” programs, such as national health insurance for the poor, voting rights legislation to end discrimination against African Americans, federal education aid, and other landmark social programs.
In fact, the State if the Union speech was not delivered in person by many of the country’s earliest presidents. Starting in 1801, Thomas Jefferson decided that he should simply write the speech down and send it over to Congress to read because he felt that standing up and speaking in front of the House and Senate made him feel too much like a king, just a quarter century after America fought its war of independence to free itself from the British monarchy.
To watch the final State of the Union address by President Barack Obama live online via Amazon Instant Video, visit this link. The speech is also accessible on mobile devices using the Amazon Video app or on television sets using the Amazon Fire device. The speech will also stream on YouTube at this link and on WhiteHouse.gov by using this link.
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]