CNN reports 'by far the biggest audience a primary debate has had on the Internet'
Members of the news media watch on television monitors in the media center as Republican U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump speaks during the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, September 16, 2015. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

CNN's live stream of the prime-time Republican presidential debate drew a record online audience for a U.S. primary debate with 920,000 simultaneous viewers after about 90 minutes, the network said on Wednesday.

The total midway through the three-hour debate was "by far the biggest audience a primary debate has had on the Internet," CNN said in a blog post on its website. The first nominating contest for the November 2016 election is four months away.

Viewership peaked about five minutes later with about 921,000 simultaneous viewers, a CNN spokesman said. By comparison, this year's American football Super Bowl peaked at 1.3 million viewers, CNN said.

CNN, a unit of Time Warner Inc , streamed the debate on its website without requiring proof of a cable TV subscription.

Billionaire Donald Trump's combative speaking style has boosted interest in the race for the Republican nomination. He shared a stage with 10 other candidates. Four other Republicans, who rank lower in opinion polls, took part in an earlier debate.

On television, the network charged advertisers up to $200,000 for a 30-second commercial during the debate, according to people familiar with the matter.

Media analysts predicted CNN would draw its biggest television audience ever, topping the 16.8 million viewers who tuned in to watch Vice President Al Gore and businessman Ross Perot debate the NAFTA trade agreement.

More data, including ratings for the cable TV telecast, will be released on Thursday.

A Republican debate on Fox News Channel in August attracted 24 million viewers, a record for a presidential primary debate and the highest non-sports telecast in cable TV history. Fox News Channel is a unit of 21st Century Fox .

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Howard Goller)