I don't know what NBC is thinking. I do know that whatever they are thinking, I believe it's irresponsible, bordering on disgraceful.
Certainly, NBC has every right to do this. So too does any person have the right to buy a bulldozer in order to crack the shell of a peanut in their driveway. Having the right to do something and doing it are two different matters.
This isn't a matter of thinking that Trump will get more viewers than Biden. He may -- or not, I don't know. And if he does get more viewers, for all I know it will be because people will be tuning in to see if he has a COVD-related incident or a meltdown belligerently talking over the public there asking questions. Indeed, on a "debate" level, town halls are the absolute worst venue for Trump, not only having to deal with the public directly, but being asked question important to them personally, not willing to be interrupted or talked down to.
Rather, this is a matter of NBC's judgement and broadcast responsibility. It's rewarding Trump for breaking his agreement to debate and giving him a platform all by himself. And it's intentionally, knowingly giving him that platform directly against his opponent, which can only hurt Biden's viewership. (Again, I don't think that inherently means the results will hurt Biden -- after all, the best thing for Biden seems to be to let Trump talk. But nonetheless, it still hurts the viewership, and it hurts it knowingly.) NBC could have put on a town hall event with Trump at anytime. It still would have been irresponsible, rewarding him for breaking his agreement and obligation to debate. But at least if it was put on at another time, there would be no deliberate conflict.
It's really hard to figure a good reason why NBC is doing this. It may be that they felt that they had that timeslot open for the previously-scheduled debate already and would have to fill it somehow, probably with a rerun. Or perhaps Trump insisted that that's the only time he'd do. It doesn't matter all that much -- it's bad to cravenly make the decision themselves, and it's bad to cravenly cave to Trump.
As a friend of mine has liked to point out for four years, NBC is Trump's network. They had his game show hosting The Apprentice and created his platform to national attention. Though they didn't own the rights to those tapes, the producer did, they probably could have put some pressure on to release them. Those reasons of the past might be enough for some, like my friend, to tie all this up with a ribbon, though to me the issue is enough on its own merits, without any history attached. It's just irresponsible to public good to give Trump a reward for bad behavior and do so intentionally when they knew it was most problematic for Joe Biden.
Even Rachel Maddow was willing to address that point. When Kamala Harris was her guest last night, she awkwardly but laughingly asked basically -- "So, are you one of those who like most of America hates NBC?" Harris laughed in return and said, oh, no, she wasn't going to get dragged into that.
The reality is that this NBC-created conflict likely won't affect many, let alone possibly any votes. Some undecided independent voters may watch. But though undecided, it seems that they probably have leanings by this point, and they'll watch to confirm what they're already thinking. If there is any affect on votes, it's most probably because Trump is as out-of-control as he was in the first debate. But even at that, it shouldn't be done. He shouldn't be rewarded for dropping out of his agreed debate. And it shouldn't be done at the same time.
I don't know what NBC was thinking. In fairness, I'm not sure that NBC can explain well what they were thinking either.