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CNN and ABC Snag the TV Coups of the Year

·1 min

All of a sudden, the TV booking of the year was up for grabs. Since 1987, presidential debates have been simulcast on every major channel in the country. But President Biden’s shock announcement that he would skip this fall’s preplanned matchups in favor of debates sponsored by individual news outlets sent network executives into a scramble. Such debates typically take months to plan. Instead, in three hours, two news outlets outmaneuvered their rivals to land a pair of prime-time face-offs between Mr. Biden and former President Donald J. Trump that promise enormous ratings and prestige. Given the circumstances, some improvisation was involved. One network’s chairman began rewriting his presentation after confirming that both candidates had agreed to a debate on June 27. Another network’s head had to coordinate with executives at the parent company to find a free night on the schedule. The details about the events are still coming together.