After the surprise record 24 million average viewers on the Fox News Channel for the first debate in August, and the 23.1 million viewers scored by the CNN in the second debate in September, the latest one on CNBC only produced 14.1 million. (The first Democratic presidential debate in mid-October, earned CNN 15.3 million viewers).
Now, to be sure, CNBC doesn’t have the TV brand news marketing heft of a Fox and CNN. Still the debate on Wednesday posted the best viewership results ever for CNBC.
And debate drama was still there: Candidates attacking the news media -- in particular CNBC moderators -- for their seemingly light-weight questions; and CNBC proponents countering that real substantive questions were in fact asked -- but few would address them directly.
Republican candidate Donald Trump wasn’t much of an instigator this time around. Instead the likes of Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush -- two veteran politicians -- went at each other. Ho-Hum.
Maybe more of a crossover episode is needed: According to TV software/analytics provider, Samba TV, 60% of those who watched the Democratic debate also watch the Republican debates; while 21% of those who watch the Republican debates watch the Democratic battle.
Not only that, but the average number of viewing minutes of the three Republican debates has gone to 60 minutes, from 85 minutes for the second debate, and 71 minutes for the first, according to Samba TV. (It should be noted the first debate was much longer than the two that followed).
Now, in part, you might also want to blame a little sports TV event playing on one of big broadcast TV networks: the second game of the World Series on Fox, which earned a competitive 12.5 million viewers for its three hours. So that hurt things.
But like any TV show, you need to handle all your competitors in a fair fight. Maybe some new story arcs and cast members will spike things up; Nielsen viewers will keep voting.
The positive spin is this: Cancellation of this show isn’t in the cards.