Facebook made a big bet on providing live coverage of the 2016 presidential conventions. And at least with ABC News, Facebook’s official gavel-to-gavel live streaming partner for the events, the bet seems to have paid off.
ABC News, which announced earlier this week that it would partner exclusively with Facebook to provide live coverage of both presidential conventions, topped 11.5 million views across all of its live streams during Donald Trump’s four-day-long coronation ceremony.
In total, ABC News went live more than 50 times during the Republican National Convention, producing more than 35 hours of live content from Cleveland.
At its peak, ABC News Facebook live streams received as many as 20,000 concurrent viewers, the news outlet said. In terms of the live viewership, ABC News’ numbers are on the higher end compared to other digital publishers, likely boosted by the immediacy of the convention. (Of course the numbers pale in comparison to primetime TV, which in total is drawing 20 million viewers across all networks — ABC alone is reaching more than 2 million viewers during its nightly 10 p.m. broadcast.)
ABC News’ approach to live video on Facebook differs from what it did on TV, where it produced a nightly hour-long live recap of each day’s biggest news and highlights. On Facebook, the focus was on providing the full breadth of what was happening in Cleveland as it was happening, with live streams of speeches on stage as well as commentary from ABC News talent and coverage of what was happening outside of the convention.
“We have this incredible infrastructure and we cover every major event,” said Dan Linden, global head of social for ABC News. “That plays a big role into what we’re doing with Facebook Live and live video in general — we obviously want to supplement our traditional coverage, but we also want to see things we are otherwise not seeing.”
Take, for instance, the main ABC News Facebook page’s first live broadcast on the final night of the Republican National Convention: it begins with “ABC World News Tonight” anchor David Muir walking through the Quicken Loans Arena and providing color on the atmosphere and the night. As he makes his way through the halls to get to the skybox set up for ABC News’ live video hosts, he stops to speak with attendees and even drops by ABC News’ makeshift control room.
“With live streaming we get to be creative in a new way because we don’t have to think in simple programming blocks,” said Dan Silver, executive producer of ABC News Digital.
Behind-the-scenes access to important events has become a staple use-case for Facebook Live, especially among news publishers, and doubly so among news publishers on-site at the presidential conventions. Facebook itself set up a live video lounge at the Republican National Convention — and will do again next week for the Democrats — where publishers ranging from BuzzFeed to CNN can drop by and go live.
For ABC News, live video has become priority across both Facebook and its own platforms. The outlet’s website and apps offer as many as eight simultaneous live streams. Reporters are now equipped with an app that allows them to go live and send a feed directly to the ABC News control room, which then decides where to publish the stream.
“We’re all-in on live streaming, and specifically with this election, Facebook is becoming a great distribution point,” said Colby Smith, vp of ABC News Digital.
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