After weeks of wrangling, NBC will give four Republican presidential candidates free airtime to compensate for GOP frontrunner Donald Trump hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live. But that doesn’t mean you should start setting your DVR anytime soon.
The hopefuls who won the agreement, first reported by Variety, are the Republican equivalent of the “Not Ready for Primetime Players”: Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.
After making a splash this summer, Kasich has seen his poll numbers steadily drop and has come under fire for taking what some called a scolding tone in the last GOP debate. Huckabee, who participated in the first three prime-time GOP debates, failed to garner enough in polls leading up to the fourth and was bumped to the second-tier.
Huckabee took a spot usually reserved for Graham, whose support is so low that for the first time he didn’t even qualify to sit at the kids’ table, a phenomenon familiar to Gilmore, having only appeared in the initial B squad debate in August.
All four campaigns filed requests with the network for equal time. Former New York Governor George Pataki is also in talks with NBC to get his 12 minutes a fame.
Like the others, Pataki’s support has hovered somewhere between low single digits and an asterisk ever since he announced his presidential bid.
"In compliance with FCC regulations, NBC has come to an agreement...on each candidate's equal time requests following Donald Trump's appearance on SNL on Nov. 7," an NBC spokesperson told CNN Money.
However, the foursome also isn’t getting the same platform as Trump, whose “SNL” appearance on November 7 drew 9.3 million viewers, the largest audience in years. Instead, they will each be given 12 minutes of advertising time on 18 NBC affiliates in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The spots will be aired during primetime on November 27 and 28, and again during the “SNL” episode on November 28 – that’s as close as the four candidates will come to appearing on the iconic 30 Rockefeller Center stage.
The FCC’S "equal time" rules say White House hopefuls are entitled to equal time for any appearance that doesn’t qualify as a news event, but aren’t necessarily guaranteed the same platform.
The preliminary campaign request varied, with Graham and Pataki seeking time in early primary states, while Kasich and Huckabee want to part of the network’s national broadcast.