The Microsoft tech behind President Obama’s State of the Union address

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 14 January 2016
The Microsoft tech behind President Obama’s State of the Union address

Microsoft Pulse partnered with a number of major broadcasters, including CNN, MSNBC, NBC Universo and Telemundo, to allow Americans to vote on whether they agreed or disagreed with what President Obama had to say during his final State of the Union address.

The results of the nation’s sentiment was shared in real-time during the live broadcast by CNN and NBC Universo, and online through their digital livestreams by MSNBC and Telemundo.

Microsoft Pulse has been a regular feature of CNN and MSNBC’s political coverage since the 2014 US midterm elections, and will continue to engage viewers and voters throughout the 2016 presidential campaign with various broadcast partners. This year marks the first implementation of Pulse by Spanish-language outlets Telemundo and NBC Universo, and the fourth consecutive year a major news network has used Pulse to drive user engagement and audience insights during the State of the Union address.

“To date, Microsoft Pulse has enabled millions of Americans to make their voices heard on important issues and during key forums and moments in time – from company meetings to the State of the Union address. It’s growth and success demonstrate how online technology can empower people to engage and become active participants in the decisions that affect their lives,” said Dritan Nesho, director of technology and civic engagement at Microsoft. “On the other hand, Pulse allows broadcasters, and any organisation seeking to connect with its audience and customers, to enable instant participation and real-time feedback.”

As part of its SOTU 2016 plans, Pulse has enhanced how broadcasters communicate with their audiences by rolling out a new ‘social annotations’ feature. Social annotations allow producers to select specific points, or periods of time, during a speech or in an event and provide commentary about what the audience is seeing or responding to. Viewers can share and comment on an annotation through social media, and producers can extract the annotation data through a snapshot API and push it into any graphics or BI system in order to do their own analysis and on-air visualisations.

Additionally, Pulse now integrates with multiple communications products within the Microsoft family. For example, through a new integration with Azure Media Services, broadcasters can now push video content to all viewers’ second screens during a live program or commercial breaks, synchronised with TV programming or advertising, allowing for an additional revenue stream.

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