3rd Republican presidential debate to be capped at 2 hours

Posted at 5:35 PM, Oct 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-16 18:35:58-04

CNBC and the Republican presidential candidates agreed on the format for their third debate a day after leaders Donald Trump and Ben Carson threatened to boycott unless they got their way, the network said.

The Oct. 28 debate will be two hours long and will include closing statements from the candidates, CNBC spokesman Brian Steel said Friday.

The billionaire businessman and the retired neurosurgeon, in a joint letter to CNBC's Washington bureau chief on Thursday, had told the hosting network they would not appear at the debate unless it was capped at two hours including commercials and the candidates were allowed to speak directly to the camera at its opening and close. The Republican National Committee and candidates began discussing the format on Wednesday, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said.

CNBC had proposed two hours of debating time not including four commercial breaks, meaning the time the candidates would be onstage would be about 15 minutes longer.

The most recent debate, on CNN, lasted three hours with commercial breaks, a duration that left some of the candidates complaining. Since the debates have set records for high ratings, television networks have an incentive to keep the candidates onstage and on the air for as long as they possibly can.

CNBC had initially called for no opening and closing statements, which made some candidates unhappy because it would take away their best chance to speak directly to voters without having to be called on to respond to a question.

Spicer confirmed the agreement.

Debate format squabbles are common in presidential campaigns, an issue magnified this year because of the number of candidates running and their popularity as television events. Trump had threatened not to appear on the second GOP debate on CNN unless the network made a $10 million donation to charity; no donation was made, and Trump appeared.