NBC News Has Technical Difficulties at Top of Hour No. 2 of Wednesday’s Debate

By A.J. Katz 

News networks rarely like making the news, but unfortunately that happened for NBC News tonight shortly before 10 p.m. ET during night No. 1 of the first Democratic primary debate.

Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow were poised to moderate the second hour of the debate, while Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie and Jose Diaz Balart–who moderated the opening hour–had just finished their hour.

Unfortunately for NBC, it appeared the moderators from the first hour weren’t totally done. Their mics were still hot while they were speaking backstage. The viewer (and in-studio audience) could hear the secondary audio feed live and on-air while Todd was asking a question about gun control and the Parkland HS shooting.

When this started to happen, Todd remarked, “we are hearing our colleagues audio,” with Maddow adding, “We prepared for everything. We did not prepare for this.” NBC was forced go to a very abrupt commercial break, before returning a couple minutes later.

No one knows what happened.

What will happen to those lost minutes? New York Times’ Michael Grynbaum apparently got the answer.

Not long after this tweet went out, Todd said, “we blew through a break to give you guys more time.”

However, that’s not totally accurate. According to Adweek’s Jason Lynch, all the evening’s ad pods did, in fact, run as scheduled, and the break Todd spoke of no longer existed.

Lynch writes:

When NBCU went to commercial to fix the audio issue, it simply moved up the third ad pod, scheduled for later in the hour, NBCUniversal said. No advertisers were affected as a result of the move—nor, more importantly for the company, was any ad revenue.

There also have apparently been some issues with NBC News’ mobile app and its brand new streaming service, NBC News Now, which has been livestreaming the debate tonight.

Oh well, at least for NBC this audio snafu didn’t happen during a general election debate broadcast! The screw up was brief, Todd and Maddow handled it well, and the network has a lot of time to work out any kinks going forward, though I’m sure the folks in the control room are totally freaked out right now.