Dish Crunches Data on TV Viewing, Predicts Next President

Under its new ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ initiative, Dish gathered data from connected DVRs to predict a Clinton victory, based on viewing preferences for genres such as sports and TV series. Plus … how to watch 2016 elections on Dish.


Dish can guess how you vote based on what you watch. Those who watch more sports or family-oriented TV shows like “Sesame Street” are likely to vote Republican, while fans of TV series like “Scandal” tend to vote for Democrats.

Analyzing data like this from its Internet-connected set-top boxes, Dish predicts that Hillary Clinton will win the presidency and Republicans will take the House of Representatives, with an estimated 245 out of 435 seats (a two-seat gain for Democrats in the 115th Congress).

While Dish doesn’t have a whole lot of historical data to apply to the predictions – the company only started collecting viewership data in 2014 – the group did test the current model against the 2014 House elections and was able to predict the outcome for that race with 98 percent accuracy.

Dish used no outside polling or research to come to its conclusions for the coming term.

The 2016 voting analytics, which Dish calls Viewers to Voters, is the first project completed under the company’s “Wisdom of Crowds” initiative.

“With so much focus around national polling, we thought it’d be interesting to see if we could find a correlation between how our customers interact with Dish and how they may vote,” says Warren Schlichting, executive vice president of media sales, marketing and programming.

Dish first analyzed the relationship between programming watched and political affiliation, and then gathered anonymized customer viewership data to predict political winners.

In its initial analysis, the company determined that customers who watched more sports, religious or family-oriented television were more likely to vote Republican. Examples include NFL Football, GEB America’s “Giving Hope, Sharing Life” and “Sesame Street.”

Customers who watched more series/specials, education or music-oriented television were more likely to vote for Democrats. Examples include “Scandal,” “MythBusters” and “The Voice.”

The 2016 voting analytics, which Dish calls Viewers to Voters, is the first project completed under the company’s “Wisdom of Crowds” initiative, exploring the potential relationships between TV-viewing behaviors and real-world actions.

The Wisdom of Crowds program is run by Dish’s Data Science and Media Sales divisions.


According to Dish:

DISH collects anonymized, aggregated viewership data from millions of set-top boxes across its national footprint. Working with terabytes of viewership data, DISH’s Data Science team took a two-step approach to developing a predictive model for the 2016 presidential election.

The first stage of the model identified the relationship between the shows DISH customers watched in 2014 with the state-by-state outcomes of the 2014 House elections. A wide assortment of variables were analyzed including the types and amounts of programming customers viewed across nine different Nielsen-defined genres (e.g. sports, movies, education and series/specials). The second stage of the model then identified the relationship between House party control and presidential party affiliation dating back to 1932.

DISH took this approach to accommodate its relatively young historical viewership data set that dates back only to 2014, when the last House election occurred. The Data Science team did not draw from any outside polls to reach its conclusions. The group expects to enhance its model by introducing hundreds of additional variables for future projects.

How to Watch Elections on Dish

Dish has updated several of its viewing features for Election Day so that customers can optimize their live election coverage experience:

  • Available on Hopper 3, Dish will convert Sports Bar Mode into the Election Newsroom. This multi-channel view divides a TV screen into quadrants, each with the ability to display a different program. When accessed from the channel guide, Election Newsroom will auto-populate CBS, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Customers may tailor this feature to display their favorite four news networks and can easily toggle among the four channels to determine which will play audio.
  • With the recent addition of the YouTube app on Hopper 3, Dish customers can watch live election coverage on YouTube without changing inputs or devices. Starting at 7 p.m. ET, YouTube will feature coverage from top news channels including NBC News, PBS, MTV, Bloomberg, Telemundo and online news network The Young Turks.

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson