TV Ratings: CNN's GOP Debate Rakes in 23 Million Viewers

Republican Debate - H 2015
AP Images

Republican Debate - H 2015

After Fox News' cable record for the August showdown, interest in the 2016 presidential election is not wavering.

The GOP is proving to be as big of a draw as the NFL this year.

TV's second debate among Republican presidential candidates, held Wednesday night at the Reagan Library, pulled in just a hair shy of 23 million viewers for CNN between 8:15 and 11:15 p.m. ET.

The cable news network's live telecast of the 11-person showdown marks a personal best for CNN. And that comes just a month after the Fox News Channel-hosted debate smashed cable's nonsports audience record with just north of 24 million viewers.

For CNN, it tops the previous ratings high set more than 20 years ago when Larry King Live aired a special with Ross Perot and Al Gore to the tune of 16.8 million viewers.

CNN had more than a month to pull out all the stops for an the all-but-guaranteed huge audience. FNC's surprise haul on Aug. 6 set incredibly high ratings expectations for coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign — thanks, at least according to himself, to Donald Trump.

Wednesday's debate from Simi Valley, moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper with assists from Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt, featured the same cast as the first with the addition of Carly Fiorina. And while Trump seemed to get less air time than he did during the previous outing, he was again among the dominant personalities.

The current frontrunner had called on the network to donate advertising revenue to veterans. But considering the marathon-length of the telecast, commercials came quite infrequently.

The early debate, featuring candidates who didn't make the cut for the main event, brought an average 6.3 million viewers, just a hair above the comparable one on FNC in August.