CNBC Prepares for Big Night Before ‘Millions of People’

By Mark Joyella 

CNBC, the business network that has no qualms about devoting time to extended discussions of credit default swaps, will switch things up a bit tonight, as an anticipated massive audience arrives for the next Republican presidential debate.

“This is a CNBC debate that’s not just for CNBC,” the network’s personal finance correspondent, Sharon Epperson, told The New York Times. “It’s not just for the people in our war room or for the people who watch us every day. It’s for the electorate; it’s for millions of people.”

As The Times notes, the debate comes as CNBC faces challenges on many fronts:

The debate is poised to shatter previous viewership records for the channel and provide it with some welcome news. Over the last decade, CNBC has confronted declining ratings and increased competition. Online services have neutralized the power of its stock updates, Fox Business debuted eight years ago, and Bloomberg Television has invested plenty to gain traction.

But tonight, the network anticipates a huge audience–and a night of sold-out advertising inventory, at rates The Times reports “significantly exceed” CNBC’s normal prime time prices.

“This is a substantial, historic sort of one-off,” said CNBC chairman Mark Hoffman.