Presidential TV Debates Are Commercial-Free. But After And Before? Not So Much

Huge ratings are expected for the Presidential debates. But commercial availabilities during the event? Well, virtually none.

That's because Presidential debates are programmed mostly like, well, an HBO show: It’s commercial-free.

Now that said, big national TV advertisers are spending big bucks on so-called “pre-game” and "post-game” coverage. Many TV broadcast networks have priced 30-second post-event commercials at around $200,000 to $250,000. Little to no inventory remains.

The first debate on Monday, Sept. 26, will be simulcast on eight broadcast and cable networks: CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and CSPAN. In 2012, the cume viewing of all networks airing the first 2012 Presidential debate posted a big 67 million viewers. Expectations are, this debate might yield much higher totals.

Typically, these 90-minute event might be short on dramatic points. But with Donald Trump's improvisational approach, much could change. Analysts point to the previous off-the-cuff remarks of his Republican debate appearances during the year.



Viewers will be on the edge for those “gotcha” moments -- even if historically these have been few and far between.

In 2012, President Obama had one of them against Mitt Romney in the debates, when a moderator concurred that in fact Romney was incorrect when it came to one topic: the attack in Libya. Romney said of the President’s initial description of the assault on the U.S. Consulate: “For 14 days, he refused to call it an act of terror.”

But Obama immediately objected, telling Romney to check the transcript.

CNN’s Candy Crowley interceded: “He did, in fact, sir.”

Bam! There’s your dramatic moment -- with a few million voters perhaps taking note. 

But, no. The debate didn’t break for a commercial. What would that advertising message have been worth to someone?

So you say the Presidential race shouldn’t be about marketing? About advertising money? Hmmm... That sounds nice. But someone is making money -- right before and right after the debate, when all the heavy analysis will be flowing easily.

So, will we be getting a “TV show” in these debates -- or perhaps dissertations with dull policy points of view from the next leader of our nation. When one figures that out, TV marketers and promoters will take their appropriate debate positions.

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