Virtual crowd roots on candidates during Cornyn-Hager debate

2020 US Senate Race

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — Amid the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings, Friday’s U.S. Senate Debate had an audience in the form of virtual guests on big screens.

Both Republican John Cornyn and Democrat MJ Hegar had 20 supporters appear virtually on massive screens inside the Bullock Texas State History Museum in downtown Texas. Crowds were not physically allowed inside the venue.

While candidates couldn’t hear them react, the audience helped bring a certain energy and excitement one wouldn’t have seen otherwise to the debate presentation.

KXAN News Director Chad Cross said the campaigns were able to select the supporters to appear in the virtual crowd and serve as a visual symbol of support. 

“We wanted to create the feel they had a group of supporters there cheering them on,” Cross said. “Our hope was, off in the distance, the candidates would be able to see them.”

The campaigns were excited for the opportunity to bring in their supporters to showcase how much they care about their candidate. 

Senior Director of Local Content Development Chris Berg says the inspiration for the virtual crowd came from professional sports broadcasts we’ve seen over the last few months.    

“The NHL and NBA – and how they were able to incorporate fans into their broadcast – allowed for a unique experience when people were otherwise not allowed in a crowd,” Berg said.  “We want to make sure regular Texans could feel like they were taking part in democracy.”

Friday’s debate took place at the Bullock Museum and aired across 15 Texas stations in the state of Texas. You can watch a replay by clicking here.

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