Last night, CNBC became the third network to garner record ratings with a Republican primary debate. THR reports that the outlet is estimated to have pulled in between 10 million and 13 million viewers for Wednesday’s festivities. That’s fewer than tuned in for Fox News (24 million) and CNN’s (23 million) Republican debates, but it’s a record for the business news network, which attracted just 3.1 million viewers for its debate during the last presidential election cycle.
The last time around, the candidates were debating the same thing (the economy) and going up against the same incumbent (President Obama), so what gives? Why are these debates attracting such monstrous audiences?
Well, after boiling down all of the available data, we’ve come up with an airtight hypothesis: because Donald Trump.
That has to be the reason, doesn’t it?
Actually, we’re not so sure this time. In fact, Ben Carson has now overtaken The Donald in a national poll and several Iowa polls, so it’s possible that the ratings are due to the fact that there’s some drama surrounding who might get the nomination this time.
Last time CNBC aired a Republican primary debate, the comparatively dull Mitt Romney looked like the presumptive choice, which robbed the proceedings of some of their luster. That debate was also the ninth overall, while last night’s was only the third contest. Traditionally, viewers tend to suffer a bit from debate fatigue and can tire of hearing the same answers emanating from the same mouths ad nauseum.
Clearly, however, that has yet to set in and — for now — these debates are ratings gold for whatever network holds the right to air them. Next up? The Fox Business Network on Tuesday, Nov. 10. Looks like another record looming on the horizon.