CNN Republican Debate Draws Nearly 23 Million Viewers

Sets Record for Cable News Network, but Falls Short of Fox News GOP Debate

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Credit: Max Whittaker/Pool via Bloomberg

The Republican debate on CNN Wednesday night was watched by nearly 23 million viewers making it the most-watched telecast in the network's history, according to preliminary numbers.

The cable network's previous record was held by a November 1993 episode of "Larry King Live," where Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot debated NAFTA. That was watched by 16.8 million viewers.

But it still fell short of the record-setting turnout for the first GOP debate, which aired on Fox News last month. It holds the title as the most-watched cable telecast of all time, excluding sports programming, with 24 million people tuning in.

Much of the hubbub surrounding these sparring matches has been centered on billionaire Donald Trump, whose blunt and often crass remarks have made for compelling TV.

Mr. Trump is also a big reason why CNN was able to charge about $200,000 for a 30-second spot in Wednesday night's debate. That is 40-times more than the usual price of about $5,000 for a commercial on CNN in prime time. Indeed, Mr. Trump couldn't resist a pointed remark in an interview after leaving the main stage. He noted that CNN must have had no trouble attracting advertisers, given the lengthy three-hour time slot for the event.

Digital viewing of the debate was also impressive. There were 921,000 peak concurrent live streams of the debate, according to CNN. That compares with 1.3 million for this year's Super Bowl.

Final numbers will be released later this afternoon.

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