CNN will include commercial breaks in its debate

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CNN is planning to include commercial breaks during its June 27, 2024, debate, according Variety sources and an advisory issued to a news pool organization and its affiliates.

The network advised members of the pool and the CNN Newsource service of the plan, though it did not indicate how many breaks are planned or how long they might run.

While it’s not uncommon to include ad breaks during primary debates, inserting them into a face-off between major party nominees or presumptive nominees does not appear to have ever been done before (not counting advertising included in pre-debate and post-debate coverage).

CNN has said that it will allow other outlets to carry the debate live but its access rules bar other networks from inserting their own coverage or commentary during the commercial breaks CNN takes. 

That said, it does not appear the other networks will be barred from selling their own advertising during breaks.

Ironically, in fact, other networks with higher viewer loyalty could end up collecting more in ad revenue than CNN — and not have to bear the production costs of the debate itself.

Historically, advertising sold during primary debates or in the surrounding coverage have commanded high rates from advertisers looking to grab eyeballs of engaged viewers in key demographics. 

The debate is also likely to attract more live viewers and keep viewers’ attention even during breaks. 

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CNN could also opt to include squeezeback advertising combined with shorter break lengths to keep viewers around, a strategy that has been becoming more popular with broadcasters looking to retain viewers during commercial breaks.

It is not immediately clear if ABC, which is hosting a similar debate Sept. 10, 2024, will include advertising.

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