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ABC News Live Goes All in on Longform Stories Like ‘Guardians of the Amazon’

The new streaming service gives reporters an untraditional amount of time to tell their stories

Last Updated: March 4, 2020 @ 1:03 AM

Since launching a month ago, the new iteration of ABC News Live, the new streaming platform from ABC News, has found content that sets it apart: Longform stories.

ABC News Live launched in 2018 on browsers or devices like Roku or Apple TV, where it still lives today. But it largely covered breaking news or big events. The new programming strategy launched Feb. 3 created original shows and brought on designated anchors, like Linsey Davis.

While no viewership data is available yet for February, January 2020 saw 13 million viewers and a year-over-year increase of 155%. ABC News Live viewership, on average, has grown 21% each month since its 2018 launch, but executives expect it to grow even more now that the new strategy is in place.

“The product that we ultimately now have on the channel has been an amazing opportunity, just by the sheer support and resources that ABC News has put behind us,” Justin Dial, senior executive producer of ABC News Live, told TheWrap. “The power of the company, the news-gathering and the reporting that is done each and every day here now has yet another outlet for that information and storytelling to be showcased.”

Dial explained that during ABC News Live’s programming such as the “ABC News Live All Access” show, which airs at 8 p.m. ET, stories and interviews that may have aired earlier on ABC’s traditional shows like “Good Morning America” can be expanded and run in longer versions.

“We can open up and air a little bit longer version of reporting that’s been done all day long on the network that we want to highlight,” Dial explained.

Dan Harris, a correspondent who’s been able to showcase his reporting in longer cuts with the freedom afforded by the ABC News Live platform, told TheWrap, “I’ve been doing longform stuff on ‘Nightline.’ That’s been the longest form we’ve had for probably 15 years, and the ceiling on the number of minutes that your story could run was 16 or 17 for my whole career here.”

He covers international issues (think child slaves, drug wars or gang wars) and “found over time that our viewers really love this stuff.”

So, he said, “when I heard that ABC News Live had the appetite for hours, that was incredibly compelling. And it just so happened that I had recently shot a story that definitely had enough content to last an hour.”

ABC News Live gave Harris the chance to go deeper with the new special “Guardians of the Amazon,” which profiles the Arariboia Indigenous Reserve’s Guajajara tribe. Armed with hunting rifles, bows and arrows, machetes and chains, the group has formed a paramilitary operation called the “Guardians of the Forest,” tracking down and apprehending illegal loggers.

What has the reaction been like as he’s taken advantage of the longer time limits on the new platform?

“Some of my colleagues are insanely jealous and they want to be making documentaries for ABC News Live, so I suspect Justin [Dial] is going to be getting lots of emails from people with a lot of ideas,” Harris says.

Watch a preview of “Guardians of the Amazon” above.