Ratings drop for third GOP debate

The Republican presidential debate hosted by CNBC on Wednesday night attracted fewer viewers than two earlier forums on CNN and Fox News.

According to Nielsen ratings reported by CNN, the deate averaged about 14 million viewers.

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An estimated 24 million people watched the first GOP debate on Fox News in August, while another 23 million tuned into CNN’s GOP debate last month.

The first Democratic debate on CNN attracted about 15.3 million viewers earlier this month.

The presidential primary debates generally are attracting huge audiences compared to years past. The CNBC numbers are still higher than its all-time ratings records during Olympics coverage more than a decade ago and surpass most debate records from past cycles.

The GOP’s first two contests broke all-time debate rating records off the hype created by billionaire businessman Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump campaign dismisses Dem attacks as ‘night of empty rhetoric’ Obama makes case for Clinton to succeed him FULL SPEECH: President Obama at the Democratic convention MORE.

CNBC was reportedly charging massive prices for the debate, about $250,000 for a 30-second ad — similar to reported prices for the previous CNN debate. 

But the network had predicted a drop off from the first two forums because of its niche business format and its competition with Game 2 of the World Series. According to Google statistics, more people searched for the World Series than the GOP debate for most of Wednesday evening. 

CNBC has been criticized by the candidates, the Republican Party and some observers for their handling of the debate. Some conservatives said the questions were unfair to the GOP participants.

Donald Trump even took a swipe at the network’s ad prices in his closing statement and boasted that he and others negotiated to get the debate shortened to two hours instead of three. 

CNBC denies that the debate was ever slated to be three hours. 

— Updated 1:30 p.m.