CNN Charging 40 Times Its Usual Price for Spots in Republican Debate

Thanks to Hype Over Trump, Rate Approximates Cost of Prime-Time Broadcast

By Published on .

Donald Trump in August.
Donald Trump in August. Credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

CNN is asking 40 times its normal rate for commercial time in the next Republican debate.

The cable news network is charging as much as $200,000 for a 30-second spot in the prime-time brawl taking place on Sept. 16, according to a media buyer. This is on par with the cost of buying commercial time in some broadcast prime-time series.

Typically, an average prime-time spot on CNN costs about $5,000, buyers said.

It won't be clear who will be in the top-tier debate until Sept. 10. CNN amended its GOP debate criteria to now include anyone who ranks in the top 10 in polling between Aug. 7 and Sept. 10.

CNN is also asking for $50,000 to $60,000 for a commercial in the debate between lower-ranking candidates that will take place earlier in the day.

A CNN spokeswoman declined to comment on pricing.

Much of the buzz can be attributed to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, whose polarizing viewpoints, crass comments and unpredictability have made for compelling TV.

Fox News set a record earlier in the month with 24 million people tuning in to the first Republican primary debate of the 2016 election cycle, making it the most-watched cable telecast of all time, excluding sports programming. And perhaps even more impressive, the debate drew 6.7 million viewers in the all-important 18-to-49 demographic. This is more than double the 3.2 million people in total that watched the first GOP debate of the 2012 campaign.

While CNN isn't necessarily expected to pull the same audience as Fox News did, it will likely come close.

Billie Gold, VP-research and programming at Carat, predicts the Sept. 16 debate will set a record for CNN as the most-watched debate in the network's history. The previous record was set by the 2008 debate between Vice President hopefuls Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, which was watched by about 10.7 million viewers.

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