CNN putting commercial breaks in Biden-Trump debate: report

CNN reportedly plans to run commercials during its coverage of the debate between President Joe Biden and former commander in chief Donald Trump — bucking a decades-old tradition.

The struggling cable news channel — which landed the first of two debates to be broadcast June 27 — revealed its decision to run ads in rules for access that were recently issued to members of the DC Television News Pool, as well as subscribers of its feed and to CNN affiliates, Variety reported late Thursday.

In past election cycles, presidential debates have run ad-free under the management of the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

CNN will air the first presidential debate between President Biden and former President Trump ahead of the 2024 election on June 27. REUTERS

But this time, the candidates bypassed the commission and reached separate deals with CNN and ABC News, which will hold its presidential debate Sept. 10.

CNN’s decision to run ads will allow rivals Fox and MSNBC that carry the feed to sell their own commercials during the debate — at possibly a higher price than the third-place cable news channel, sources told Variety.

CNN did not offer any information on the number of ad breaks that will air during the debate, which will be moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, or their duration.

A source with knowledge said the week of the debate, CNN will provide format guidance to networks that include information on the length and positioning of commercial breaks.

CNN did not comment.

While the Fox and MSNBC will be able to sell ads against the CNN broadcast, they will be prohibited from filling commercial breaks with commentary segments from their own analysts.

During breaking news events, cable news networks often run commentary from anchors or contributors alongside the commercials to keep viewers from changing the channel.

CNN is breaking from tradition by adding commercial breaks during the debate. Ron Haviv/VII/Redux

In this case, MSNBC, for example, will not be allowed to surround CNN’s feed with remarks from Rachel Maddow or its other talking heads to offer opinion on the debate.

Although advertisers have been unable to run commercials during presidential debates, they have clamored to be part of the action.

Variety noted that Anheuser-Busch InBev has long served up beer and food in a pop-up beer garden situated at the auditoriums or theaters where debates have taken place.

Additionally, advertisers have run commercials referencing the debates before they took place.

In 2016, Audi ran an ad on the night of the first debate between Trump and Hilary Clinton showing two valets fighting to take command of an Audi RS 7. 

Presidential debates can be lucrative for networks, and advertisers are now hoping to get in on the action under CNN’s new structure. REUTERS

“Beautiful things are worth fighting for,” the ad said. “Choose the next driver wisely.” 

Selling ads after a presidential or primary debates has been lucrative for the networks, as viewers are craving analysis on some of the biggest political issues.

In 2016, Variety reported that CBS sought between $200,000 and $225,000 for a 30-second ad during coverage taking place following a Trump-Clinton debate.

In 2019, CNN was looking for a commitment of around $300,000 in advertising on the network before it would give a potential sponsor the chance to buy ads around the two debates between Democratic presidential hopefuls, Variety noted.

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