Are Trump Debate Appearances TV 'Advertising' Or 'Content'?

Everyone wants to get paid for their “content” — even some politicians.

Realizing the advertising windfall that CNN grabbed for its high-viewership Republican presidential debates, candidate Donald Trump renewed his request that CNN should pay him for his appearance at the next debate, Dec. 15 -- $5 million, which he said he would donate directly to charity.

CNN has declined to agree to this -- as it had for the first debate it aired in September. (Then Trump wanted $10 million).

Reports suggest CNN pulled in $2.5 million in advertising for the first debate because of massive 22 million viewership, charging about $115,000 for a 30-second commercial. It usually gets around $5,000 for a prime-time spot.

Doesn’t Trump have a right to fully monetize his efforts on the campaign trail? Of course. But he has already done so -- many times over. For example, how much money Trump has spent in advertising for his presidential aspirations? Little to nothing, according to reports.



With all the “free” TV exposure Trump is getting on debates by Fox, CNN, and CNBC, the key question to ask is: Does one view Donald Trump as “advertising” or “content”?

Trump knows about brand-building, which he did on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” one of the early network reality TV show hits.

But the show, now called “Celebrity Apprentice,” no longer has the ratings heft it had when Jeff Zucker, then NBC Entertainment chief executive, signed up the show in 2003.

Now Zucker is president of CNN Worldwide and takes a different point of view, since running presidential debates isn't like running network reality TV shows.

Trump may not feel that way. As a reality TV producer, he understands TV business economics.

“The Apprentice” was that rare reality show that grabbed hefty million dollar fees from branded entertainment producers -- money that didn’t go to NBC’s advertising coffers. Early on, NBC advertising executives were privately complaining about this business arrangement where advertisers directly compensated the program to be part of the “content.”

Can you tell the difference? And can you tell where the money and influence is really flowing? It isn’t about money going to charity; it’s more about control. Then think about Trump at the next presidential debate on CNN.

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