Where Do Debate Profits Go? Advertising During The Event Brings Networks A Pretty Penny

Money is on the minds of many heading into the next Republican presidential debate. Moderators will undoubtedly be asking about economics, but the bigger question is more to do with the event itself; specifically, where do GOP debate profits go? The primetime event is surprisingly lucrative for networks, especially given the first debate's record viewership. For that reason, host network CNN is charging 40 times more than their usual price for ad spots during the debate. Those interested in ad space could spend as much as $200,000 for just 30 seconds of time.

It's unclear where, exactly, all that revenue is going and how it's being spent. CNN could be using the funds to help alleviate technological stresses as they look to provide the debate for free to as many people as possible. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has suggested donating all debate proceeds to military veterans. In a letter addressed to CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, Trump urged the network to use its profits for good:

You should view the second debate broadcast as a public service and not accept the massive profits that this airing will generate. I believe that all profits from this broadcast should go to various VETERANS groups, a list of which I will send you in the near future.
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Those who host the debates appear to be the only ones making money off such momentous events. According to the Democratic National Committee, their six sanctioned debates are all sponsored affairs. "A combination of state Democratic Parties, national broadcast media, digital platforms, local media, and civic organizations" are what brings these debates to fruition. The GOP follows a similar protocol regarding funding.

Looking ahead and past the primaries, national debates are presented by the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates. Founded in 1987, the CPD is dedicated to ensuring that debates are held every presidential election cycle. They receive no PAC or governmental funding and instead rely on a mixture of donations as well as sponsorship from companies. The 2012 presidential debate sponsors included Anheuser-Busch Companies and Southwest Airlines, among others.


Numbers were never released regarding just how profitable the first GOP debate was for Fox News, though CNN's numbers may provide an indication. Fox News has yet to release information regarding how they spent their debate revenue as well. The network is clearly earning a considerable amount from the 2016 election, as Chris Christie reportedly spent $250,000 on ad space leading up to the first debate. Though it's unclear where debate profits are going, it's certainly obvious that a whole lot of funds are coming in.