Ratings for the third debate among Republicans seeking their party's nomination to run for the White House in the November 2016 election trailed the other two aired on Fox and CNN, which drew 24 million and 22.9 million viewers.
|John Harwood, Becky Quick, Carl Quintanilla|
CNBC, in a statement announcing the ratings, defended itself against the criticism, describing the evening as "a hard-hitting debate that changed the course of the Republican primary."
Media analyst and entrepreneur Steve Brill said that CNBC's focus on financial news would insulate it to some extent from any backlash.
"I am not sure that it really affects the reputation of the network at the core of what it is, which is a financial news network," Brill said.
CNBC sold all of its advertising slots during the prime time debate, charging advertisers $250,000 or more for a 30-second ad, according to a person familiar with the situation.
"It's a victory, but it's a mixed victory for CNBC," said Barry Lowenthal, president of the The Media Kitchen, a New York-based media buyer.
Questions at Republican primary debates have long been a point of contention within the party. Party chairman Reince Priebus instituted a series of rules after the 2012 election in an attempt to have moderators who would be interested in discussing conservative issues.