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ABC Cuts, Expands Political Coverage

ABC is cutting back two hours from its live prime-time coverage of each political convention compared with the 2000 conventions, the network said Monday.

Even as it announced the network cuts, ABC touted plans to expand its overall offerings with gavel-to-gavel coverage of each four-day event on its digital TV, radio and Web streaming news platforms.

"ABC News is delivering old fashioned gavel-to-gavel coverage in a new way," said ABC News President David Westin.

The networks have continually cut back their prime time coverage of conventions as the primaries stripped the events of their suspense and their importance in selecting candidates, and as political party organizers transformed them into choreographed pep rallies for the party faithful.

This year, ABC will offer three hours of live prime time coverage of the Democratic convention in Boston beginning with the Monday, July 26, opening night.

Coverage runs from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m, hosted by anchorman Peter Jennings.

One hour of live coverage follows during the same time slot on Wednesday and Thursday. For the Republican convention in New York, coverage skips the Aug. 30 opening night (ABC had not returned a call on why the omission) and begins Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 10 p.m. and follows at the same one-hour slot on Wednesday and Thursday.

ABC's prime time cuts bring it in line with CBS and NBC, which offered three hours of live coverage in 2000.

Jennings will anchor four hours of coverage each of the conventions' four nights over ABC News Live, the web streaming channel, which is also available over some cell phones.

Each of ABC's 10 O&Os will also operate a digital channel airing another 19 hours of total convention coverage. The programming will be made available to ABC affiliates that wish to air the extra coverage on one of their digital channels.

The digital channels will air other election reports around the clock beginning July 26 through electing night Nov. 2.