NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo Will Co-Host First Democratic Primary Debate for 2020, Two-Night Event in June

By A.J. Katz 

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Ah yes, it’s almost that time again. Presidential primary debate season is approaching, and the networks of NBC News are getting first crack at interrogating the Democratic Party candidates who are vying for the party nomination and the opportunity to take on President Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

The first Democratic party primary debate will be a two-night, back-to-back, prime time weekday event in June broadcasting simultaneously across NBC, MSNBC and real-time Spanish translations Telemundo. It’s the first time a Spanish-language media outlet has been a partner for a first primary debate.

Location, venue, moderators, date and time, format and logistics for the debates will be announced at a later date.

Last year, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez announced 12 presidential primary debates to be held over the course of the 2020 cycle, with the first two occurring in June and July of 2019.

NBC News has the June debate, and the July debate will be broadcast by CNN in prime time on back-to-back weeknights if more than one night is needed.

No NBC News debate has ever aired in prime time on back-to-back nights, and both debates will be streamed online for free.

CNN aired in prime time on back-to-back nights presidential debates in January 2008. Night one was from the Reagan Library (hours after John Edwards dropped out), and the next night took place at the Kodak theater (the first Obama-Clinton one-on-one).

A tipster told us that there were two full crews for those debates, and only some of the set pieces (the desk primarily) had to be moved.

Below is the note NBC News chairman Andy Lack sent out to staff this afternoon regarding the debate:

Dear Colleagues,

In case you haven’t seen it, the Democratic National Committee this afternoon announced that NBC News will host the first presidential primary debate of the 2020 cycle. This is a great testament to the hard work of the entire politics team, our commitment to dogged reporting, and the reach and influence of NBC News.

It’s no surprise. We’re firing on all cylinders – NBC News was the number one most-watched broadcast network for the 2019 State of the Union; TODAY, Nightly News, Dateline and Meet the Press all finished 2018 at number one; 2018 was also the best year in MSNBC’s history; NBC News Digital just had its best month ever, passing our competition, reaching more people than ever before; and Stay Tuned has become the go-to news brand for the younger generation, with more than 30 million people tuning in every month. Our investigative and political teams are breaking story after story and we continue to accelerate our investments in original content, new podcasts, OTT and long-form reporting all while solidifying and expanding our international footprint.

This unique debate will take place in June, over two consecutive nights because of the size of the field of contenders. It will be broadcast in prime time in two languages, across three networks: NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo, and will be available to viewers around the world on our digital platforms. In the coming months we will share more details, including exact dates, location and moderators.

Our coverage will reflect what the American people have come to expect of us: a substantive, rigorous, and inclusive examination of the candidates’ views across the most important issues.

This is a fantastic way for NBC News to head into the 2020 presidential cycle, and kick off what is sure to be a historic election.

As ever,





NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, NBCUniversal International Group chairman Cesar Conde, and Noticias Telemundo evp Luis Fernandez sent out a separate note to Telemundo staff concerning the Spanish language broadcaster’s historic broadcast of the debate:

Dear all,

As you may have heard, today the Democratic National Committee announced that Noticias Telemundo will co-host the first presidential primary debate of the 2020 electoral cycle, in partnership with NBC News and MSNBC. This is the first time in history that a Spanish-language outlet is a partner for the first Democratic presidential primary debate. The choice is not by accident: Latinos have become a critical constituency for any aspiring political candidate in the United States, and Telemundo is the leading Hispanic network in the country.

For Noticias Telemundo, the debate marks an important milestone, as part of a wider and sustained expansion plan of our news operation. Last year, our network unveiled a state-of-the-art 360° studio, launched our first-ever midday newscast – “Noticias Telemundo Mediodía” – and established two investigative units devoted to the production of in-depth journalism: “Noticias Telemundo Investiga” and “Noticias Telemundo Planeta Tierra.” Our audience has responded to this expansion process, positioning “Noticias Telemundo Nightly News” as the only newscast in the country growing season to date, regardless of language.

The debate will air in June of this year over two consecutive nights, due to the large number of aspiring candidates. It will be broadcast in primetime across Telemundo, NBC and MSNBC, as well as all our digital platforms, in English and Spanish.

We can’t think of a better way to kick off and lead the 2020 electoral cycle. We are living at a critical time that could redefine the role of the Hispanic community in our country. Our news department is doing an outstanding job, and it is important we continue to address the anxieties and fears with trustworthy, rigorous, relevant and accurate information.

This win is the product of the hard work of a great team committed to serving its community. We thank you all for that.

Best regards,

Cesar Conde


Chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises and NBCUniversal International Group

Luis Fernandez


Executive Vice President

Noticias Telemundo

Lastly, below are the DNC’s details on threshold for primary debate participation. Democratic candidates may qualify for the first and second debate by meeting one of the two following sets of criteria. The DNC’s press release:

Polling Method: Register 1% or more support in three polls (which may be national polls, or polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada) publicly released between January 1, 2019, and 14 days prior to the date of the Organization Debate.  Qualifying polls will be limited to those sponsored by one or more of the following organizations/institutions:Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Des Moines Register, Fox News, Las Vegas Review Journal, Monmouth University, NBC News, New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR), Quinnipiac University, Reuters, University of New Hampshire, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Winthrop University.  Any candidate’s three qualifying polls must be conducted by different organizations, or if by the same organization, must be in different geographical areas.

Grassroots Fundraising Method. Candidates may qualify for the debate by demonstrating that the campaign has received donations from at least (1) 65,000 unique donors; and (2) a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states.  To demonstrate that the fundraising threshold has been reached, candidates must provide verifiable evidence, which they may do by authorizing ActBlue and/or NGP VAN to provide that evidence.

If more than 20 candidates qualify for the debate, the top 20 candidates will be selected using a methodology that gives primacy to candidates meeting both thresholds, followed by the highest polling average, followed by the most unique donors.