- Joe Seales
Joe Seales was a stay-at-home dad between jobs. Then he started watching Donald Trump’s speeches.
Seales is the CEO of Right Side Broadcasting Network, a website best known for its YouTube channel, which has hosted feeds of almost every single Trump rally, town hall, or public appearance since July 2015.
With broadcasting experience working with right-leaning figures like Glenn Beck, the RSBN CEO and his business partner Adam Taxin, a former reporter, decided they could easily broadcast Trump events, which were getting wall-to-wall coverage on cable networks but were difficult to find online. They flew to Phoenix on July 11 for Trump’s rally, turned on the live-stream, and immediately found an audience.
“We covered that speech and did that live, we got a million views on that speech within the first few months,” Seales told Business Insider during an interview in September. “That’s when I knew: ‘Let’s run with this.'”
Right Side Broadcasting Network has emerged as a tool for many Trump fans along with journalists and campaign operatives.
Seales said Trump appreciated that the network showed the size of his crowds at rallies, adding that the real-estate magnate “watches the network a lot” on his plane, though Business Insider could not confirm this. The Trump campaign has publicly supported the network, tweeting out links, while even some members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff acknowledge privately that they watch the feeds of speeches on RSBN out of convenience.
The formula for the organization’s success is simple. The cable networks often carried Trump’s speeches, which eschewed policy detail and rote stump-speech regurgitation for off-the-cuff zingers and audience participation. But Seales recognized that while the networks chopped up the speeches and posted bits on social media for news value, thousands of Trump supporters online wanted to tune in for large chunks or view the entire spectacle.
And it’s been successful.
RSBN has over 186,000 subscribers on YouTube. MSNBC, by comparison, has 173,000 subscribers. RSBN’s most popular video – a clip of Secret Service agents surrounding Trump when a fan tried to charge the stage – has over 2.3 million views, while several videos of entire Trump events have over a million views.
Though Seales said he initially funded the operation out of pocket, he told Business Insider that RSBN had become donations-based, with donations averaging “roughly” $25 each. The RSBN website specifically touts the channel’s status as a donations-based operation.
“I’ve been approached by some venture capitalists and things like that, but we’re hesitant to go down that route because we don’t want to give up ownership of the content,” Seales said. “We want to be in control of what we can and can’t say on the network. So this is sort of a different kind of – we’re experimenting a little bit, seeing how far we can go without having to take that route.”
Lack of money obviously restrains the scale of operations that RSBN can accomplish.
The cash from the donations funds about 10 employees, including two full-time crews: one to cover West Coast events and one for the Midwest and the east. Seales, who has no graphic-design experience, designed all the lower-third graphics on each stream himself.
RSBN doesn’t have the cash to afford a satellite truck, and it instead negotiates with venues and advanced staff to get a hardwire internet connection to broadcast its streams. Its blog is primarily populated with links to Trump live-streams and posts directly from the far-right site Breitbart News.
Still, Seales has big plans for the operation.
Over the next several months, RSBN wants to roll out additional shows on its YouTube channel with the eventual goal of moving toward a 24-hour programming network. Seales said he was in talks with “pretty big-name people” from conservative media circles about future shows on the network, which he hopes will help bolster the channel’s credibility outside its Trump streams. He envisions a network similar to Glenn Beck’s multiplatform conservative media organization TheBlaze, with original blog posts and programmed shows.
Earlier last summer, Seales signed deals with conservative media personalities Wayne Dupree and Pastor Mark Burns, who independently reached out to the RSBN chief about simulcasting shows on the network. Dupree approached RSBN in June about starting a show. After several shows, Burns reached out to the channel interested in launching his own show.
Burns was a natural fit for the channel. A pastor with a tiny worship center in South Carolina, Burns became known for his televangelism, and he was noticed by Corey Lewandowski, who was then Trump’s campaign manager, last fall, garnering a spot introducing Trump at his rallies. His warm-ups were so popular that RSBN began posting clips of just the Burns intros.
- John Moore/Getty Images
But growing from a skeleton crew broadcasting speeches to a legitimate media organization has also presented obvious challenges.
It’s unclear that the simulcasts with RSBN’s personalities, for one, are particularly popular beyond a core group of RSBN viewers. Dupree’s shows generally garner far fewer views than live-streams from rallies or even any of the on-the-ground reporting that RSBN dubs “pregame coverage.”
And earlier this month, Burns was forced to apologize for exaggerating his credentials after a CNN profile revealed that the pastor had lied about being a part of a fraternity and serving in the US Army Reserve.
RSBN defended Burns on its website, saying the pastor’s fabrications were mistakes like those anyone else would make.
“Pastor Burns, we still love you, bro,” Seales wrote on the site.
Burns did not respond to Business Insider’s repeated request for comment for this article.
The pro-Trump nature of the feed also attracts some of the real-estate magnate’s uglier followers. RSBN streams often fill up with comments on the sidebar, which often include language that is racially, religiously, and sexually charged. Seales said he recognized criticism of the RSBN comments feed and told Business Insider he paid staff members to comb back through comments and block users posting offensive material.
With less than two months until the election, Seales is starting to play for a future he did not envision a year ago.
“Our goal is to be relevant after the election when there are no more Trump speeches,” Seales said.
Still, Seals acknowledged that “life will be pretty good for us if he gets in.” The network plans to open an office in Washington, DC, if Trump is elected and will attempt to get White House press credentials.
A Clinton win could present more challenges.
“If that happens, I don’t know what to expect,” Seales said. “But we want to continue with programming either way and see how that goes.”