Debates boost cablers ratings

Fox's primetime average up by over 1 million

For cable news, the race was on to fill the brief period of maximum interest between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, and ratings numbers are back for Sunday programming on major contributors Fox News and CNN.

Fox News Channel aired its Sunday forum with Republicans John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson, giving the cold shoulder to Ron Paul (who came fourth in New Hampshire, while Thompson ranked behind the combined write-ins). The debate boosted Fox’s primetime average by more than a million viewers to 2.5 million total, and numbers for the key news demo (25-54) doubled.

In what would almost certainly have garnered C-SPAN-like ratings in the last election cycle, CNN opted not to try for original programing and just re-aired the Saturday ABC/Facebook debates. Instead of dipping, however, the net ended up pulling in a moderate boost to its primetime average for a total of about 958,000 viewers for the GOP and a little under 1.4 million for the Democrats.