No TV? No problem – you can still catch the debates. This morning, ABC News and Facebook announced they are again teaming up to bring live coverage of the U.S. 2016 Presidential election to the social network, with live video of the general election debates. In addition, the network’s Facebook Page will feature live streams throughout the day from the host cities, as well as pre-debate programming via its original series “Straight Talk” airing at 7 PM ET on Facebook Live.
Anchored coverage of the debate will then continue, with “Nightline” co-anchor Dan Harris, Digital Host Amna Nawaz and ABC News contributor LZ Granderson.
The further expansion of the relationship between the two organizations follows a previous deal which saw ABC News providing live coverage of the DNC and RNC on Facebook. That went well, it seems – ABC News reports today that it saw over 28 million video views across its Facebook Pages as a result of those streams.
With the debate coverage, ABC News isn’t simply broadcasting live video out to the social network, it’s also using the platform to interact with the audience. The network says it will incorporate viewers’ comments, questions and conversations in the Facebook Live coverage of the debates. The feeds also won’t include advertising.
“Given the tremendous viewership we saw across the ABC News Facebook pages throughout the conventions, we’re thrilled to continue the partnership and bring ABC News’ wide-ranging live coverage direct to users’ News Feeds for the debates,” said Colby Smith, Vice President of Digital, ABC News, in a statement. “As we move further into the election cycle, there continues to be a voracious appetite for live content and we know many users turn to Facebook to engage and participate in the conversation.”
The move comes at a time when an increasing number of viewers are cutting the cord with pay TV services in favor of online streaming, which can leave them without access to local news stations if they don’t invest in a digital antenna. (Or even if they do have an antenna, they may spend more time “watching TV” simply by streaming it from services like Netflix.) Meanwhile, social networks like Facebook and Twitter have been heavily investing in live video in order to capitalize in this shift in viewing behavior.
As a WSJ article noted in June, Facebook had poured $50 million into live video deals, including inking contracts with nearly 140 media companies and celebs. The strategy has been paying off: 11 percent of the top 500 Facebook Pages run by media companies had produced a live video in January, and that figured increased to 44 percent by May, it also said.
The 90-minute Presidential debates will begin Monday, September 26 in Hempstead, N.Y., and will then be followed by an October 9th event in St. Louis, and an October 19th debate in Las Vegas. The Vice-Presidential debate will be held on October 4th in Farmville, Virginia.