ABC News Goes For 2nd-Screen Inauguration

Viewers will be able to go to ABCNews.com/live or the ABC News iPad app and choose from various live streams, from correspondents around the country to man-on-the-street reporting from the National Mall. Those live streams will also be available on Yahoo.com (a partner of ABC News) and YouTube.
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After experimenting and executing several second-screen opportunities during the 2012 presidential election, ABC News hopes to deliver in-depth and interactive coverage of this year’s presidential inauguration.

“We envision people to be on their tablets or computers while watching the TV broadcast, interacting on our social streams and truly feeling like they’re at the event,” says Doug Vance, ABC’s VP of product development.

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Coverage kicks off Sunday morning with a special edition of This Week with George Stephanopoulos followed by coverage of the president formally being sworn in during a ceremony at the White House. Sunday evening’s World News with David Muir will broadcast from Capitol Hill.

On Monday, inauguration day, viewers will be able to go to ABCNews.com/live or the ABC News iPad app and choose from various live streams, from correspondents around the country to man-on-the-street reporting from the National Mall. Those live streams will also be available on Yahoo.com (a partner of ABC News) and YouTube.

Monday’s live-streaming coverage continues into the night at the Inauguration Ball, where ABC has plans to offer a “red carpet” type of experience, by pointing out important people in attendance and even mentioning which fashion designer they’re wearing. The second screen experience wraps up Tuesday with a live-streaming show recapping the entire event.

Even with the advances in technology since President Obama’s first inauguration, Nancy Han, executive producer of ABC News’ live-stream, says the event won’t be as big for his second term.

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“2009 was a humongous event, so I don’t think the ABC troops will be as large like they were then,” says Han. “That being said, the ABC News team is still very large, and the coverage will extensive.”

For the network’s broadcast, ABC News cameras will tap into a press pool feed. All live-streaming coverage will be delivered through fiber back to a central control room in New York. The station won’t be doing any backpack-style journalism for the event and won’t be using any bonded-cellular technology.

“The cellular networks are pretty lousy for these types of events, and we can’t rely on them,” she said. “There’s fiber everywhere, so that’s what we use. It’s much more dependable. The [cellular] technology just isn’t quite there yet.”

To deliver all of the live-feeds to tablets, smartphones and computers, ABC News uses Internet video solution provider Unicorn Media to manage its live feeds and dynamically send them out optimized for various devices and available bandwidth.

“It detects if you’re on Wi-Fi or 4G or 3G, and serves up a video experience best suited for that bandwidth,” Vance says. “That helps us seamlessly deliver the highest-quality video.”

With non-stop coverage of Inauguration Day — all the way through the Inaugural Ball — there are bound to be some non-narrative moments, where viewers will see what’s going on at certain locations without any commentary from correspondents. That’s not a problem, says Vance. He calls it an opportunity to show the live-stream viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the production of the entire event.

“We found out during our election-day and at convention coverage that there are plenty of interesting experiences that may not be fully narrated,” he says. “At the conventions, we had the main stage camera running the entire time and it showed viewers how new speakers were being brought up, and what was going on inside.”

It will also give those who are fully engaged with the inauguration some time to use the social media elements that will be positioned alongside the streams. ABC teamed up with Storify, the social media curator, which will take the best photos, videos and commentary of the event and package them into easy-to-read stories.

ABC will also crowd-source some of its reports by polling the second-screen users using GoPollGo. The interactive survey will show real-time and geo-targeted results. “We can show results of key issue questions, and then break it up by states and regions,” Vance says.

While the whole second-screen experience is good for the user, it’s also another revenue stream of ABC News.

Pre-roll ads will be fed via FreeWheel, an ad-serving platform that’s integrated with Unicorn Media, in addition to banner ads on ABCNews.com. Vance says his crew will also be experimenting with mid-roll ads, which would play, as its name suggests, in the middle of the live-feed. Playing those 15- or 30-second mid-roll ads does require quick decisions on the back-end of the production, however, to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the user experience.

“Live events certainly lend themselves to be better, because there can be a sense of predictability,” Vance says, adding that some of the presidential debates included short breaks, making for a mid-roll ad opportunities. “But in a breaking news environment, you need to be careful, because you don’t want the user to miss out on anything important.”

An updated video on-demand library of all of the key moments will be available at ABCNews.com throughout the event.

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