CNN’s debate program “Crossfire” premiered to modest overall numbers Monday evening, though it was an improvement relative to the time period for the cabler.

According to Nielsen, the half-hour “Crossfire” averaged 581,000 total viewers and 171,000 adults 25-54 in the 6:30 p.m. ET hour — up over the net’s prior four-week average by 44% overall (from 403,000) and 21% in the demo (from 141,000). And vs. the comparable Monday of a year ago, “Crossfire” provided CNN with even bigger gains.

In adults 25-54, the CNN program finished ahead of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation”  (171,000 to 116,000), but both placed well behind Fox News, which averaged 384,000 viewers for “Special Report.” And in total viewers, “Crossfire” placed third, behind the 617,000 for “PoliticsNation” — with these two shows combining to draw merely half of the 2.4 million who tuned in for “Special Report.”

“Crossfire,” a revival of the series that aired on the network from 1982 to 2005, positions pundits from the left against counterparts on the right in a bid to present and challenge their viewpoints. Stephanie Cutter represented the left on Monday, with Newt Gingrich on the right.