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ABC News Teams With Facebook for 24-Hour Live Political Convention Coverage (EXCLUSIVE)

Republican National Convention
Greg E. Mathieson Sr./REX/Shutterstock

ABC News plans to deliver around-the-clock live coverage on Facebook for the 2016 Republican and Democratic national conventions under a partnership with the social giant.

ABC News, which has 8.6 million followers on its primary Facebook page, said it will have 24-hour live coverage across a variety of pages. Throughout each day and between the speeches in primetime, ABC News’ curated Facebook feed will provide live video of on-the-scene interviews, protests and other breaking news.

Under the companies’ deal, Facebook will provide ABC News with exclusive, real-time data during major speeches that it will use across TV and digital platforms. ABC News hosts and correspondents also will incorporate viewer comments, questions and discussions in its Facebook Live coverage.

ABC News’ wall-to-wall Facebook coverage is part of a digital deluge of video coming for the conventions, and underscores how critical social media has become for traditional news orgs to reach audiences.

CBS News has cut a pact with Twitter to live-stream CBSN on the social service, while YouTube will be the official live-streaming partner for both conventions. The Republican National Convention runs from July 18-21 in Cleveland, and the Democratic National Convention will be held July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

According to ABC News, what will make its live-streaming content on Facebook stand out is that it won’t simply be repurposing TV programming on digital. Rather, it will have correspondents in the thick of the conventions to cover it more deeply it’s ever been able to before.

“Our live-stream strategy is all about bringing users a wide variety of unique moments they may not otherwise see on television,” said Colby Smith, ABC News VP of digital. “For the conventions in particular, Facebook Live is the perfect platform to reach and engage with our audience, delivering a 360-degree perspective of what’s happening on the ground.”

ABC News isn’t the only media outlet turning to Facebook for the political conventions. C-SPAN, for one, plans to use Facebook Live during the conventions from about 8-11 p.m. Eastern each night, and Univision Communications’ Fusion says it will use the service as part of its coverage. Facebook also is erecting “lounge” areas in both GOP and Democratic convention halls for media groups to use to broadcast live video.

Facebook Live, launched less than a year ago, has quickly become a factor in the modern media mix — by turning virtually anyone in the world into a correspondent.

A Facebook Live broadcast by a Minnesota woman last week after a police officer shot and killed her boyfriend spawned nationwide protests. During a sit-in staged last month by House Democrats in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to force a debate on gun-control legislation, more than a dozen pols turned to Facebook Live as well as Periscope to get their message out after GOP leaders barred TV cameras from the chamber.

Andy Mitchell, Facebook’s director of news and global media partnerships, called the ABC News programming strategy for Facebook Live an “innovative” approach to using the platform. “With this partnership, Facebook will further solidify itself as the place where people across the political spectrum come to connect with their friends and family and watch democracy in action,” he said.

Meanwhile, ABC News this week launched updated apps for iPhone, Android and Apple TV, along with a redesigned homepage, with video-focused enhancements including support for up to eight simultaneous live streams across all platforms.

The new ABC News app for iOS and Android includes a “live” tab that features up to eight simultaneous streams in a scrollable format. In-line video in the app autoplays (with audio muted) as a user scrolls through content feeds.

On Apple TV, the ABC News app designed for the device’s tvOS operating system also lets users watch multiple live streams at once, picking from up to eight live streams on the top shelf of the Apple TV home screen. The app also auto-detects a viewer’s location to deliver news from the nearest local ABC station; that currently is available in about 30 markets, including the Alphabet net’s eight owned stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Fresno, Calif., Philadelphia and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.