Republican National Committee moves February debate from NBC to CNN

Donald Trump

Donald Trump in a December Republican debate.

(Robyn Beck / AFP-Getty Images)

The Republican National Committee has made good on its promise to cut NBC out of its primary debate schedule.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus issued a statement late Monday announcing the cancellation of a partnership with NBC, which was set to carry a primary debate from Houston on Feb. 26. The event will now be staged one night earlier by CNN.

The committee was intent on punishing NBC over what it perceived as harsh treatment from the panel of CNBC moderators at the Oct. 28 Republican primary debate shown on the cable network.


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CNBC is owned by NBCUniversal but operates separately from NBC News.

The RNC said NBC’s Spanish-language network Telemundo, the conservative journal   National Review and radio group Salem Communications will remain as partners in the debate, which was moved to Feb. 25 to take advantage of higher TV usage levels on Thursday nights.

NBC News declined comment Monday, including any word as to whether Telemundo will still broadcast the debate now that it will be produced by CNN.


The cancellation is a revenue hit for NBC News, as the Republican primary debates have scored massive ratings - thanks in large part to the attention for front-runner Donald Trump - generating 30-second ad prices in the low six figures. CNN’s first Republican debate on CNN scored 23 million viewers on Sept. 16 and 18 million on Dec. 15.

But the GOP ratings juggernaut shows signs of slowing. The Jan. 14 debate on the Fox Business Network averaged 11 million viewers, down from the 13.5 million the candidates delivered for the channel on Nov. 10. It was the smallest audience yet for the Republicans.

The next Republican primary debate is scheduled for Jan. 28 on Fox News Channel, which pulled 24 million viewers with the candidates back on Aug. 6.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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