Donald Trump and his conservative pals set a cable ratings record with Thursday night’s “GOP Debate” on Fox News. The heated discussion pulled in 24 million viewers, the biggest ever audience to tune into a non-sports cable program, making it the most-watched program in the week ending Aug. 9, according to data from Nielsen.
The “GOP Debate,” which touched on hot-button issues including immigration and abortion, led all programming by a longshot, pulling in more than the combined audiences of the No. 2 and No. 3 shows (“NFL Pre-Season Game” drew 11 million viewers and “America’s Got Talent” pulled in 10.2 million).
The debate also pulled in nearly five times as many viewers as the other top cable shows; TNT’s “Major Crimes” and “Rizzoli & Isles” each pulled in between 4 and 5 million viewers. The previous high for a Fox News debate was 11.8 million, prior to the 2012 election.
The NFL returned for another season on NBC, with this year’s Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings averaging about 11 million viewers on Sunday night — up more than 2 million from last year’s opener between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills and the week’s No. 2 program overall.
It was a bad week for ABC’s Thursday dramas, as all three series hit season lows opposite coverage of the GOP Debate on FNC. “The Astronaut Wives Club” pulled in just 3.5 million on Thursday night, while “Rookie Blue” netted 3.1 million and “Mistresses” nabbed 2.5 million.
NBC’s new Craig Robinson-starring sitcom, “Mr. Robinson,” bowed to a midsize audience Wednesday night, pulling in 4.6 million viewers — respectable for a comedy on the network, which has struggled in the half-hour form in recent years. According to the Variety review, the comedy “has a gentle throwback feel, but that merely means we’ve met versions of all these characters many, many times before.”
Network programming was led by NBC, which averaged 5.57 million viewers per evening, followed by CBS with an average of 5.23 million. Fox News came in third, thanks to the debate, which hiked its nightly average to 4.41 million viewers. ABC trailed with a 3.6 million average, followed by Fox’s 2.07 million nighty average.
For the week of Aug. 3-9, the top 10 programs, their networks and their viewerships: “GOP Debate,” Fox News, 24 million; “NFL Pre-Season Game, Pitt. vs. Minn.,” NBC, 11 million; “America’s Got Talent – Tuesday,” NBC, 10.2 million; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 8.7 million; “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 7.2 million; “NCIS,” CBS, 7.1 million; “America’s Got Talent – Best Ofs,” NBC, 7 million; “Big Brother – Sunday,” CBS, 6.6 million; “Big Brother – Wednesday,” CBS, 6.6 million; “American Ninja Warrior,” NBC, 6.5 million.