The Republican presidential candidates’ prime-time debate on CNN attracted an average of 22.9 million viewers, the network said on Thursday, making it the highest-rated program in the channel’s history.
The figures, based on Nielsen data, fell short of the 24 million who tuned in last month when Republican candidates took part in a debate on Fox News Channel, the biggest audience for a non-sports telecast in cable TV history.
CNN’s debate lasted three hours, one hour longer than the one on Fox News.
Billionaire Donald Trump’s blunt speaking style has boosted interest in the contest to pick a Republican presidential nominee for the November 2016 election.
CNN charged up to $200,000 for a 30-second commercial during the three-hour event, according to people familiar with the matter. Before the debate, Trump called on CNN to donate $10 million to charity.
Audiences for cable TV programs traditionally rank below the most-watched events on broadcast television. The Super Bowl in January attracted 114 million viewers, while February’s Academy Awards pulled in 37.3 million.
CNN is a unit of Time Warner Inc. Fox News Channel is owned by 21st Century Fox. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Mohammad Zargham, Andrew Hay and Jonathan Oatis)