Fox News is gearing up for the first prime time debate in the race for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. However, there is a challenge: the headliner, former President Donald Trump, has stated that he will not be attending the debate. Trump claims to be leading the field by a significant margin and believes he has nothing to gain by appearing on stage with his GOP challengers.
This presents a problem for Fox News, as having Trump on stage would undoubtedly attract higher ratings. In fact, it is estimated that Trump's presence could triple viewership. Despite the network's efforts to convince Trump to attend the debate, he has agreed to do a recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson instead.
Fox News is still hopeful that Trump will change his mind and participate in the debate. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel emphasized the importance of hearing from all the candidates. However, Trump's absence does not deter the network's focus on the event. Fox plans to limit ad breaks during the debate to create a more free-flowing discussion, making the limited commercial time more valuable to advertisers.
Fox shattered ratings records in 2015 when Trump participated in a debate, attracting 23.9 million viewers. Although the network does not expect to reach those levels of viewership this time around, they anticipate a healthy turnout. The debate, moderated by Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier, provides Fox News with an opportunity to regain viewers who may have drifted away in recent months.
In a fragmented TV landscape, live events like the debate offer advertisers a chance to reach a large and engaged audience. Fox believes there will be more advertiser interest in this election cycle compared to the past due to the demand they are seeing for this first debate. Overall, Fox News hopes that the debate will help draw viewers back to the network and provide an opportunity for advertisers to connect with a diverse audience.