ABC News Frustrated at NBC's Trump Town Hall Timing

Instead of a debate, viewers will get competing town halls

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ABC News was surprised that NBC News decided to schedule its town hall with Donald Trump at the same time as Joe Biden’s was slated to air on their network, an insider tells TheWrap.

NBC News defended its decision on the timing, saying the network is following the same exact plan — including the format, duration and time slot — it did for Biden one week ago, an executive with knowledge of the planning told TheWrap.

“The Trump campaign did not dictate or request the time slot, nor express any preference,” an NBC News spokesperson told TheWrap.

The original plan, of course, was for all networks to air the second debate between Trump and Biden, but Trump pulled out of the debate once the bipartisan commission in charge made it virtual after Trump tested positive for COVID-19. ABC News quickly announced a Thursday town hall with Biden to replace the event and NBC News followed suit Wednesday morning with a Trump town hall for the same time.

An NBC insider pointed out that ABC’s town hall with President Trump last month aired at 9 p.m., an hour after the one on Thursday is slated. NBC, the person said, stuck with the 8 p.m. time slot Biden got last week because either way, the hour-long Trump town hall would still overlap with ABC’s 90-minute Biden event.

One ABC News insider didn’t quite buy that, pointing out to TheWrap that once the debate was scrapped, NBC, like any network that would have simulcast Trump-Biden 2, had the 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours open. The ABC News insider said NBC could have chosen to air Trump’s town hall after Biden’s concluded, which would have been more “considerate” to the viewer, opining that Americans should have an opportunity to watch both candidates’ respective town halls.

The #BoycottNBC tag trended Wednesday on Twitter as observers complained that NBC — which made Trump famous with “The Apprentice” years ago — was being unfair. A voter can’t, after all, watch two channels at once.

Trump’s Thursday town hall is scheduled to last an hour while Biden’s will be 90 minutes. Additionally, the town halls will air on the streaming platforms of ABC News and NBC News. Two million viewers watched Biden’s NBC News town hall from last week on the NBC News NOW app, according to the insider.

The ABC News insider pointed out that not every American has access to a DVR or streaming platforms, which are the two easiest ways for someone to watch the town hall they missed on broadcast television.

As far as ABC News is concerned, according to that insider, the choice to go head-to-head is a play for TV ratings by NBC — and doubly so when one considers that NBCUniversal is simulcasting the Trump town hall across multiple networks, broadcast and cable. ABC, which is owned by Disney and has cable channels like ESPN and Freeform, does not have that same option.

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