ABC News Moves on 24/7 Streaming Network

TV news organizations are getting more acclimated to the digital video space. 

Consumer adoption of video streaming and the emergence of a multitude of mobile and connected TV platforms have vastly altered the distribution landscape for news networks.

While delivery via traditional pay TV services remains important, the trend is to branch out to digital with unique offerings that don’t merely mimic their core TV offerings.

ABC News is the latest to jump on this trend, introducing a new 24/7 streaming service called ABC News Live that will offer access to live feeds from around the globe and feature content that ends up on the ABC broadcast network.

In addition to using The Roku Channel, Roku’s free, curated ad-based offering, as its “launch destination,” ABC News Live is also being woven into the news division’s streaming sites and apps.

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ABC News Live arrives as the news division has experimented with thousands of live streams and formats to determine what works best on those emerging platforms.

“We view this as a transformative opportunity as viewers are looking to find news on new platforms such as The Roku Channel,” ABC News Digital vice president Colby Smith said, noting that ABC News has been experimenting with this capability and can now ingest up to 10,000 live streams from around the globe at any time.

As ABC News experimented with digital distribution, the division found that what works best on OTT platforms doesn’t necessarily work on traditional TV.

“To succeed in this sort of nonlinear [TV] space, you really need that global footprint and have access to thousands and thousands of live streams,” Smith said.

ABC News Live will have access to those streams, will produce original programs for digital, and borrow from ABC News’s live TV broadcasts.

Smith said the digital/OTT path will also give ABC News Live the ability to experiment. By way of example, Smith said it would be possible to offer a longer version of ABC News’s recent interview with former FBI director James Comey for a special edition of 20/20. That interview was five hours long and had to be trimmed to one hour for the show.

Going Longer Online

“On a platform like The Roku Channel, we can … produce a sort of director’s cut of that interview [because] you don’t have to condense it down into a broadcast [TV] schedule,” he said. “That’s the kind of experimentation we’re excited to do on a platform like this.”

The launch of ABC News Live arrives amid heavy activity in digitally-focused news offerings that have targeted distribution on internet-fed platforms as well as traditional pay TV service providers.

That grouping includes but isn’t limited to Newsy (now part of E.W. Scripps Co.) and Cheddar, which is coming off a $22 million “D” round of funding and recently launched a second network, called Cheddar Big News, as well as CBSN, the digital, 24/7 news service from CBS that launched in 2014

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Some in that batch — Cheddar and Newsy, along with People TV — will also be featured in The Roku Channel’s dedicated live/linear news section. That feature is set to be rolled out in mid-May as part of an update to The Roku Channel, which launched about seven months ago and initially focused on TV shows and movies.

In a discussion with users about what they wanted added to The Roku Channel, access to live news stood out, Rob Holmes, Roku’s VP of programming, said.

Alongside the news offering for The Roku Channel, which is part of Roku’s fast-growing Platforms business, the streaming specialist is also adding a “Collections” feature for the offering that lets users drill down into curated thematic collections, such as Action and Horror, as well as a Continue Watching element that lets viewers pick up where they left off.