News Networks Make Aggressive 2024 GOP Presidential Debate Bids

By A.J. Katz 

Television news outlets, presidential campaigns and the Republican National Committee are in the midst of 2024 Republican presidential debate negotiations.

The dealmaking comes following CNN’s highly-scrutinized and criticized decision to host a live primetime town hall event with former President Trump in early May. The town hall drew more than 3.3 million viewers, and was CNN’s second most-viewed single-candidate town hall since 2016.

According to Axios, the networks have made a variety of pitches.


The digital news outlet reports, citing two sources, that CNN CEO Chris Licht has told the RNC that CNN would air the debate not just on CNN U.S., but also potentially on the linear networks of other Warner Bros. Discovery channels, including TBS and TNT. Licht has reportedly argued that a CNN debate airing across multiple networks could reach more conservatives than Fox News, as well as independent voters.

CNN’s pitch also includes distribution across its digital channels, and possibly streaming. Licht has also offered to partner with a conservative-leaning outlet on the debates, Axios reports. That partnership could include giving a journalist from the partner outlet a co-moderator spot.

NBC News’ pitch for a GOP debate is being led by NBC News Group Chairman Cesar Conde and NBC News politics chief Carrie Budoff Brown, Axios reports. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt would moderate the debate, alongside a colleague from sibling networks CNBC and Telemundo. Holt appeared at the RNC in February on behalf of NBC News, and began the network’s pitch for a debate by teeing up an NBC News sizzle reel.

Axios adds that NBC News has pitched distribution across NBC News, MSNBC, Telemundo, CNBC, its streaming service NBC News Now and other NBC News digital outlets.

Neither Trump nor Florida Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis have committed to participating in the first RNC debate, to be hosted by Fox News in August. Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will likely moderate that debate.

The RNC has also reached out early to several conservative outlets regarding debates, Axios reports. Newsmax and conservative digital news outlet Rumble pitched but others reportedly passed because of cost concerns.

ABC News has expressed interest in the New Hampshire primary debate, Axios reports, an event it co-hosts each campaign cycle with its New Hampshire affiliate WMUR, in addition to a possible fall debate.

CBS News has reportedly indicated it would prefer to host a debate in 2024, and PBS has submitted a bid to the RNC to host a GOP presidential debate.