Why CNBC is counting on the next Republican debate to raise its profile and revenue
CNBC is getting its turn Wednesday on the presidential debate carousel and the potential for record ratings.
The gathering of the Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination at the Coors Events Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder is not expected to hit the Nielsen levels attained by the previous showdowns seen on Fox News (24 million on Aug. 6) and CNN (22.9 million on Sept. 16). But it’s a shoo-in to score an all-time ratings high for NBCUniversal’s business news cable network.
The competition hears that CNBC is guaranteeing advertisers around 15 million viewers, which is in the range of what CNN pulled for its Democratic primary debate Oct. 14.
That would be a feat because CNBC focuses on business and finance and does not draw the casual news viewer that tunes into CNN or Fox News Channel. Many daytime viewers watch CNBC in their offices without the sound turned up, and NBCUniversal no longer uses Nielsen to measure the ratings during its business coverage hours.
The debate also airs directly against Game 2 of the World Series, which will provide significant competition for the older male viewers that make up a heavy component of the news audience.
CNBC should benefit from the way viewers have gravitated to the debates — powered on the GOP side by the celebrity star-power and unpredictability of Donald Trump — in an unprecedented way. But as Trump’s poll numbers have appeared to plateau, Wednesday’s event may be the last where just his presence makes the debate a major attraction.
OK, so it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Hello, Newman,” the greeting the fictional
Yet should one cross Trump, don’t expect a shrug and a handshake. Instead, Seinfeld received a rant after the comedian backed out of a charity benefit hosted by one of Trump’s sons, supposedly because of the birther issue. Seinfeld’s camp has been relatively quiet, but Trump was quoted as taking a swing at Seinfeld’s TV credits.
No, not the beloved “Seinfeld,” but instead the unscripted show
“I’ll NEVER GO TO MACY’S AGAIN!” Cher tweeted. “I didn’t know they sold Donald Trump’s Line! If they don’t care that they sell products from a LOUDMOUTH.”
But Trump didn’t take the tirade sitting down, firing back about the singer’s surgical procedures.
“Cher-- I don’t wear a ‘rug'--it’s mine. And I promise not to talk about your massive plastic surgeries that didn’t work.” (Getty Images / Los Angeles Times)
“We’re at a time where you’re going to see a fair amount of movement,” said Nikhil Deogun, CNBC Business News’ senior vice president and editor in chief. “You are at this point in the [election] cycle where voters are paying attention to the substance of the responses as well.”
The debate rating will undoubtedly top CNBC’s previous ratings for a non-Olympic event set Nov. 9, 2011, when 3.3 million tuned in for a Republican primary debate. As part of NBC’s 2002 Winter Olympics coverage, CNBC hit 3.9 million viewers for an hour of coverage it carried.
CNBC is taking advantage of the expected ratings boon — its sales department was selling ad packages for around $200,000 for the two-hour debate and the coverage afterward, a multiple of their usual rates. CNBC could command a premium for the ad time as research shows that the median income of its viewers, more than $70,000, is among the highest in television.
You are at this point in the [election] cycle where voters are paying attention to the substance of the responses as well.
— Nikhil Deogun, CNBC Business News’ senior vice president and editor in chief
CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla, who will be querying the candidates alongside “Squawk Box” co-host Becky Quick and correspondent John Harwood, said he’s aware that its a major opportunity for a new audience to sample the channel’s journalism.
“We’re going to get a lot of viewers who have never watched before,” he said. “Hopefully whatever people see, it will be all about the brand, NBC, and our commitment to do big events right.”
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