If the convention’s format is unconventional, its political function is anything but.
Mr. Biden, a people pleaser by personal inclination and political design, is trying to build a frictionless launching pad for his fall campaign, in contrast to the rancorous party confab in Philadelphia four years ago when bitter infighting culminated with a brief chorus of boos at the start of Mrs. Clinton’s acceptance speech.
To do so, Mr. Biden’s team is devoting much of its prime-time space to two political power couples, the Clintons and the Obamas, who embody the party’s recent past, while providing a platform to the party’s ascendant left wing, represented by Mr. Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a democratic socialist who once groaned when asked how she would respond to a Biden nomination.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, whose appearance had been in doubt, was one of Mr. Sanders’s two picks to symbolically nominate him at the convention, according to two people familiar with internal party negotiations.
Some of the Democrats’ planning headaches stemmed from the sheer shortage of virtual podium time — not a problem in past years when conventions stretched through lazy afternoons and early evenings, providing lesser-known speakers with a few minutes to make their cases on a big stage, however small the actual audience.
“The fact of the matter is that you have a very, very limited amount of time,” said Jeff Weaver, a top adviser to Mr. Sanders who helped negotiate the tense détente with Mrs. Clinton in 2016. “You’ve gone from having 20-plus hours of convention airtime, with all the networks on site, to seven or eight hours.”
For the major networks, the event will be a far cry from conventions when thousands of journalists flooded a host city and news outlets invested millions of dollars in building high-gloss sets and mobile control rooms. And with the kickoff a week away, some key details have yet to be hammered out.