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NBC has been in a bit of a pickle ever since the announcement that presidential hopeful Donald Trump would be taking over the hosting duties for an episode of Saturday Night Live. The ratings were actually pretty great for Trump’s episode on November 7, and while there’s no way to measure how many of the extra viewers tuned in due to morbid curiosity, nobody can deny that Trump’s stint on SNL was a whole lot of free, high-profile press. In the spirit of fairness, NBC will be giving 12 minutes and 5 seconds of free airtime to the rest of the hopefuls.
Non-Trump candidates will have seven days to claim their share of free time on NBC, according to Deadline. Each candidate who chooses to take advantage of the opportunity will have the exact same amount of time in front of the camera as did Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.
While this offer is pretty clearly extended for the sake of covering all of the network’s bases, Trump appearing on SNL and other candidates being entitled to free airtime could well work very well in their favor. The 12 minutes and 5 seconds are equal to what Trump received as host of the late night program, but Saturday Night Live will not necessarily be the vehicle for the other candidates to get on the air. SNL does reach a fairly wide and varied audience, but that audience is not necessarily the one that all of the hopefuls are targeting as they vie for nomination for presidency.
The seven-day window does put the candidates in a bit of a time crunch. After all, 12 minutes and 5 seconds is not a block of time that can really be improvised or thrown together without preparation. Trump’s chunk of time was spread out through an hour and a half of SNL and planned well in advance of November 7.
Interestingly, the seven-day window did not commence immediately following the airing of Trump’s episode of Saturday Night Live. Rather, the clock started running following the posting of a notice required by the FCC that informed candidates that 12 minutes and 5 seconds were theirs to fill on screen. There will be some hoops for the hopefuls to jump through to prove their legitimacy as candidates for the top office, and the next seven days may see an awful lot of scrambling between the campaigns and the network to guarantee that each hopeful has a chance.
Of course, NBC could double the amount of airtime given to the non-Trump candidates, but that won’t change the fact that they’re not Trump. Donald Trump was a success on SNL due to the hype and spectacle that he brought with him. In that arena, at least, Trump is pretty much a shoo-in winner.