Fox News’ Primetime Republican Debate Snares 24 Million Viewers

Republican Debate Fox News Ratings
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Fox News Channel’s primetime Republican Presidential Primary Debate captured 24 million viewers overall, making it the highest-rated non-sports cable telecast of all time, according to data from Nielsen. Last night’s debate was the highest-rated presidential primary debate ever, according to the Nielsen figures.

The debate, moderated by Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, won 7.9 million viewers between 25 and 54, the demographic most desired by advertisers in news programming.

The debate, which generated attention beforehand as observers tried to determine which 10 members of a broad slate of candidates would be granted entrance to the primetime event and which would be given time in a separate event held at 5 p.m., was also the highest-rated cable news program of all time, and Fox News’  most-watched program ever in both total viewers and the 25-54 viewer demo.

It was a raucous affair, with Megyn Kelly drawing notice for asking Donald Trump, the real-estate mogul who has emerged as Republican front-runner early in the process, about the way he spoke about women. Trump seemed put off by the query.

Thursday’s event, slated to run between 8:50 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET, more than doubled the network’s previous high of 11.8 million total viewers, earned during its coverage of the 2012 presidential election, Fox News said.

Trump, whose candidacy has fascinated the viewing public, and who got a good share of the attention in last night’s event, has done better on his own. The first season of “The Apprentice” on NBC in the spring of 2004 averaged 28.1 million viewers. And the all-time cable ratings record remains the 33.6 million viewers who tuned in to the College Football Championship game on ESPN in January between Ohio State and Oregon.

The earlier debate, moderated by Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum, averaged 6.1 million total viewers and 1.2 million viewers in the demo, Fox News said, making it the third-highest primary presidential debate ever for the network.

The two debates were bridged by Fox News programs broadcast live and largely from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland where both events took place. The debate was the number one event on Twitter last night, according to Nielsen Social TV ratings ranked, which measured  3.3 million tweets and 393 million impressions – more than were generated by the Jon Stewart’s farewell from “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central that aired just as the second debate wound down. broke records as well, delivering more than 8 million video streams, in addition to more than 2.5 million simulcast video streams of the primetime debate.

Rick Kissell contributed to this report.

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  1. Tommy says:

    Yes get rid of Megan Kelly. All she does is want to be seen with other REAL journalist. She thinks all the people that watch FOX is there to see her.She could stay home and put a mirror in front of here and get a book to read looking at herself. She has no answer back at Trump…….no one has told her what to say…..

  2. shar says:

    I was NOT able to see Thursday night’s “debate” –it was NOT available for viewing for “free” broadcast (antenna) TV viewers. Why did Republicans choose to televise a “debate” among aspiring candidates for President for CABLE or other service subscribers only? Many voters do NOT subscribe to cable or satellite services OR internet services. The practice of not broadcasting debates for ALL to see, even on FREE, off-air TV, excludes many citizens, many of whom are registered voters. What are they thinking by airing the debates for cable/internet viewers only?

  3. Karen Tellier says:

    Watching the debate, I felt like FOX News and their staff were told to take Trump down. They never asked him a question about the presidency. They put him on the defensive with the first question, which they already knew the answer, and never let up. I was embarrassed for Meghan and Chris Matthews. They showed their hand.

  4. Sally says:

    At one point during the Trump debacle, I began to feel as though “it is all about Megyn,” rather than the candidates. Am not sure if I was correct or not, but the thought did cross my mind more than once. He didn’t need to run to Twitter to call her out, but it is Trump, so no one is surprised. Jonathan, as Jose said, the Democrat party is all white and old, so get a grip and stop talking about things you obviously do not understand.

  5. Smh says:

    I feel sorry for Megyn Kelly. Trump threatened to verbally abuse her. Then on his Twitter calls her a bimbo. And today on her Facebook page people call her the problem.

  6. Jonathon Richow says:

    Who can resist the unintentional comedy offered by the “White People’s Party?”
    It was hilarious. We played the “Reagan” drinking game!”

    Every time a candidate unctuously invoked the name of their beloved old fart President, we lifted our glasses in laughter and yelled “Bonzo” in honor of the chimp who actually out-acted the ‘grade B Hollyweird actor.’

    With their continual grandstanding and mealy-mouthed homage to Reagan, we were as drunk as sailors in twenty minutes. We felt that being drunk put us on the same intellectual level as the candidates.

  7. Geri says:

    That’s probably the worst news the Republican party has heard all year.

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