CNN draws its biggest audience ever: 22.9 million GOP debate viewers

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- With an average of 22.9 million viewers, CNN garnered the biggest audience in its history with Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate, the network announced today.

The Aug. 6 Fox News debate in Cleveland narrowly drew more eyeballs, at 24 million. But that debate was also an hour shorter -- and the numbers are averaged over the entire debate.

Atlanta-based CNN reportedly charged $200,000 per 30-second ad slot, resulting in a financial bonanza for the network as it extended the clash to three hours.

The 6 p.m. "kids' table" debate averaged 6.3 million viewers.

The previous record for highest-rated CNN program was a 1993 special edition of "Larry King Live" when then-Vice President Al Gore debated Ross Perot about NAFTA, drawing 16.8 million viewers. The highest rated CNN debate before Wednesday was a January 2008 Democratic debate starring Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that drew 8.3 million.

The live stream on also set a record with 4.5 million total live viewers, peaking at 921,000 on at once at 9:45 p.m. Eastern.

You can read more about the high stakes for CNN in our premium edition here.

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