Las Vegas is preparing to launch Roku and Apple TV channels, putting municipal content on streaming media players so residents and others interested in the city can access it from anywhere at any time.
Available content will include council meetings and other city-produced programming, said Michael Sherwood, Las Vegas’ director of information technology. The idea is to put content that has long appeared on municipal broadcast and cable channels on these increasingly popular mediums, which are slowly becoming more prevalent, to the point where many users are abandoning old models all together, a practice referred to as "cord cutting".
“There’s a lot of cord cutters today, and now when you cut your cords you’re not able to receive municipal TV,” Sherwood said. “Now, we’ll be able to put that same content out over our Roku channel or Apple TV channel.”
Las Vegas’ Roku channel is in the testing phase now, with plans to launch in early October. An Apple TV channel will likely follow later that month or in early November. The city also plans to roll out streaming content in the future that can be accessed through other players such as Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire.
Las Vegas, with a civic brand known throughout the world, seems like a natural fit for these platforms, as the channels also give viewers throughout the country a window into Vegas, whether they are interested in opening a business there, planning a visit, or checking in on their hometown after a move. Having on-demand streaming content gives users many options, and while meetings and other videos have been available to stream through computers and mobile devices for some time, putting them on Roku and Apple TV makes them available in a setting that's more familiar to viewers.
“If you want to do a city council binge day and watch eight or nine council meetings, you can binge eight or nine council meetings,” Sherwood said.
While it’s always difficult to pinpoint which city government was first in any given tech evolution, Las Vegas is surely at the forefront of this one. At the state level, the Information Network of Arkansas (INA) launched an Apple TV channel late last year called Gov2Go, which was less content-oriented and more about expanding the ways constituents could access government services.
Las Vegas Information Technology is building the channels in-house, rather than working with a third party provider. Sherwood says the city is exploring other uses, most of which are far off. These include notifications and alerts letting users know when the city posts new content. Even further away, Vegas could potentially stream youth soccer games in city parks, accessed with a pin system, but Sherwood notes there’s still privacy and permission questions related to that. The end result, though, would be a heartrending one: a streaming channel where grandparents who retired to San Diego could watch little ones in Las Vegas score their first goals.
Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.