Behind the Scenes of ABC News and National Geographic’s Extraordinary Eclipse Coverage

As the total solar eclipse passed over North America on Monday, ABC News and National Geographic partnered to take viewers on a journey along the path of totality for a day of unparalleled solar eclipse coverage.

Spanning 10 cities — from Mazatlán, Mexico to Houlton, Maine — and dozens of anchors, correspondents, producers, and crew members, Eclipse Across America offered audiences a diverse array of ways to watch a one-in-a-generation phenomenon.

Here’s how the teams at ABC and Nat Geo pulled off such a complex production:

Built in Real Time
GMA anchor Robin Roberts with GMA Weekend co-anchor Whit Johnson

“Our ABC News Live operations team started laying the groundwork in Summer 2023,” Seni Tienabeso, Executive Director of ABC News Live, said.

According to Molly Shaker, Executive Producer of ABC Special Events Unit, it took a lot of planning for what became a “truly unprecedented” broadcast.

Unlike a scripted broadcast, “the eclipse show was being built in real time by our teams in the field.” Shaker said. “Whatever they were seeing — they pitched to us, and we tossed to it… so everything was very fluid and in the moment.”

While the ABC News team was prepared for the scope of the project — having regularly planned and covered multi-city events like Super Tuesday — it wasn’t without obstacles.

“Our biggest challenge was making sure that we thought through how to best follow the path of the sun,” Tienabeso explained. “We had to secure extra camera crews in locations to make sure they not only had the right lenses but were able to follow the sun properly.”

A Scientific Boost

While ABC brought the broadcast chops, it got a scientific boost from the folks over at National Geographic.

“Partnering with Nat Geo gave us unparalleled access to a breadth of world-class expertise and insight,” Kim Godwin, President, ABC News, said. “That allowed us to connect with audiences on a scientific level while celebrating this extraordinary event.”

Nat Geo began consulting on the project in December, and “came in to help brainstorm the editorial and talent,” Chad Cohen, Executive Producer of Nat Geo Unscripted, said.

“There is no better authority when it comes to science and photography than Nat Geo,” Tienabeso noted. “An eclipse is a scientific and photographic event, so being able to leverage Nat Geo’s expertise with our live TV and news skills was a match made in heaven!”

From January on, the teams met weekly to ensure a topflight broadcast.

“The amount of coordination from both ABC and Nat Geo was just extraordinary,” Cohen said. “It took dozens of people across multiple departments — from production to marketing and communications, social and talent relations to programming and operations — to bring it all to fruition.”

A Massive, Multi-Platform Event
World News Tonight anchor David Muir and ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis

The preparation converged on the day of the eclipse for over three hours of coverage. ABC’s David Muir and Linsey Davis anchored from Burlington, Vermont, with help throughout the country from ABC anchor Robin Roberts, ABC meteorologists Ginger Zee, Rob Marciano, and Somara Theodore, and many others.

“Several of them covered the last total solar eclipse visible from North America in 2017,” Godwin said. “They drew from that experience with unique perspective and comparisons.”

“Having so many remarkable reporters and scientists in the field made it easy to bring our viewers outside of the path of totality, into it,” Shaker said.

The broadcast was able to follow the sweep of the eclipse across the nation — making stops with correspondents in cities that each fell under 100% totality of the eclipse.

Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and even Niagara Falls were among the towns featured during the programming.

Courteney Monroe, President, Nat Geo Content explained that “by combining National Geographic’s 136-year legacy in science and exploration with ABC News’s unrivaled leadership in live news, we provided audiences across all Disney platforms with a rich and unique viewing experience.”

That large swath of Disney platforms on which to watch included: ABC, ABC News Live, National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Disney+ and Hulu as well as network social media platforms.

“Being a part of the The Walt Disney Company allowed us to make Eclipse Across America a massive, multi-platform event where we could flex our news-making muscle for a positive story that we all so desperately need,” Tienabeso said. “Bringing audiences together across multiple Disney platforms on all devices helps to ensure that no one misses a moment live or on demand.”