You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

ABC Republican Debate Draws Big Saturday Audience: 13.3 Million Viewers

UPDATE: In final Nielsen nationals, Saturday’s debate rose to 13.33 million viewers and a 2.1 rating/8 share in the adults 18-49 demo.

The return of Donald Trump to the stage helped lift ratings for last night’s Republican presidential primary debate on ABC, which has drawn the largest audience for a political gathering of either party in 2016 — and the network’s largest non-sports audience on a Saturday in more than 14 years.

Nielsen estimates that 13.2 million watched the GOP New Hampshire debate from 8:15-10:45 p.m. ET — up from the 11.09 million who watched the Fox Business Network debate on Jan. 14 and the 12.47 million tuning in for the Trump-less Fox News Channel debate on Jan. 28. It also was much higher-rated than the two Democratic debates of the year on NBC (10.16 million on Jan. 17) and MSNBC (4.47 million last Thursday).

The ABC Republican debate special delivered the network’s largest audience on a Saturday since September 2001. In January 2012, a GOP debate on the Alphabet drew 6.27 million viewers.

While the viewership for the GOP New Hampshire debate was very impressive, especially for a Saturday night, it came nowhere close to the first two GOP debates last summer (both on higher-watched weeknights), which drew 24 million on Fox News Channel and a little over 23 million on CNN. The last Republican debate to draw more viewers than last night was the CNN gathering from Las Vegas in mid-December (18.16 million).

This was the first Republican debate on a broadcast network this cycle, and it came at a key time in the race, just three days before the first votes are cast in the New Hampshire primary. CBS will air the next GOP debate next Saturday from Greenville, South Carolina in advance of that state’s “first in the South” Republican primary on Feb. 20.

In the key news demo of adults 25-54, Saturday’s debate averaged 3.4 million, a little behind the most recent Fox News debate (3.5 million). The first Fox News Channel debate on Aug. 6 drew the most advertiser-friendly viewers for any debate this cycle (7.94 million).

Last night’s debate was moderated by ABC’s “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir and Martha Raddatz, co-anchor of the network’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” It featured seven presidential hopefuls, including front-runner Trump, and may be remembered most for improved performances by the three current or former governors on stage (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich) and Christie’s effective attacks against Marco Rubio.

The debate appears to have impacted ratings for the “5th Annual NFL Honors” on CBS, which averaged a preliminary 1.0 rating in 18-49 and 4.6 million viewers overall. While the total-viewer count was nearly on par with last year’s event on NBC (4.7 million), the demo score was down 17% (0.2). Among the awards handed out last night was the honor for League MVP, which went to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.

Post-primetime, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” delivered above-average overnight ratings for its telecast hosted by Larry David and featuring cameos by Bernie Sanders. Last night’s program averaged a 5.1 household rating/12 share in Nielsen’s metered markets and a 2.4 rating in adults 18-49 — up 9% in both categories from its season averages (4.7 in households, 2.2 in 18-49). In households, this ties with the Dec. 19 telecast hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as the show’s second highest of the season in its regular 11:30 p.m. timeslot, trailing only the night Trump hosted.

More TV

  • Jan Guillou's 'The Great Century' Being

    Jan Guillou's 'The Great Century' Being Adapted as Epic Drama Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    “The Great Century” is being adapted as an epic drama series by Dramacorp-Pampas Studios, which has landed the rights to Swedish author Jan Guillou’s book series. Guillou is known for his “Hamilton” spy-thriller novels, which Dramacorp-Pampas Studios has brought to TV as “Agent Hamilton.” That project had an international premiere at Mipcom and has presold [...]

  • Lilly Burns Tony Hernandez

    Variety to Honor Jax Media Chiefs Tony Hernandez, Lilly Burns at New Leaders Event

    Emmy Award-winning producer Tony Hernandez and Emmy-nominated producer Lilly Burns will receive the Creative Leadership Award on behalf of Jax Media at the Variety New Leaders event presented by City National Bank, taking place Nov. 14 in New York City. As founders of Jax Media, Hernandez and Burns have produced shows and specials such as [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Virginia Leith, Female Lead in Stanley Kubrick's First Film, Dies at 94

    Actress and model Virginia Leith, who starred in Stanley Kubrick’s first film “Fear and Desire,” which he later disavowed, has died. She was 94. According to family spokesperson Jane Chalmers, Leith died after a brief illness at her home in Palm Springs, Calif. on Nov. 4. Born on Oct. 15, 1925, Leith met Kubrick in [...]

  • Friends

    'Friends' Reunion Special in Early Planning Stages at HBO Max

    More “Friends” could well be there for you when the HBO Max rain starts to fall. An unscripted “Friends” reunion special is in the works at the forthcoming WarnerMedia streamer, Variety has confirmed with sources. Sources say original cast members Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer are in discussions [...]

  • TC3_SM_060718_238A4600.cr2

    'The Crown' New Season: Netflix to Offer Opening Episode for Free in the U.K.

    When Olivia Colman steps into the royal shoes of Queen Elizabeth II, viewers in the U.K. and Ireland will be able to watch for free as Netflix makes the eagerly awaited Season 3 curtain-raiser available gratis. The streaming giant will launch the series opener on a dedicated site for a limited period starting Sunday, making it [...]

  • T.R. Knight

    TV News Roundup: T.R. Knight Joins HBO Max's 'The Flight Attendant'

    In today’s TV news roundup, “Grey’s Anatomy” star T.R. Knight joins HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant” and BET renewed “Games People Play.” CASTING T.R Knight has been cast in HBO Max‘s dark comedy “The Flight Attendant.“ Knight will play Cassie’s (Kaley Cuoco) older brother, Davey. When Cassie’s life starts to unravel, Davey deals with the [...]

  • Days of Our Lives Bill Hayes

    'Days of Our Lives' Cast Members Released From Contracts

    The entire cast of the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives” have been released from their contracts, Variety has confirmed. The daytime drama has run for over 13,000 episodes since first debuting in 1965. The show will go on hiatus at the end of November, though it has shot enough episodes to last through the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content