Saturday’s contentious GOP debate from South Carolina has drawn another impressive audience, edging last week’s event on ABC to become the most-watched of the seven Republican and Democratic debates so far this year.
According to Nielsen national estimates, the last Republican debate before the key South Carolina primary averaged 13.51 million viewers and a 3.0 rating in adults 25-54 from 9 to 11 p.m. ET —the best numbers for any debate since CNN’s Republican debate on Dec. 15 (18.16 million viewers and a 4.8 in the demo). Viewership peaked between 10 and 10:30 p.m. ET with 14.63 million viewers.
Last Saturday’s GOP debate on ABC averaged 13.335 million viewers from 8 to 11 p.m. ET, the network’s largest non-sports Saturday night audience in more than 14 years, and a 2.9 in the demo.
CBSN, the digital streaming news service of CBS News, capped its most-watched week ever on Saturday with 5.1 million streams across platforms. During its coverage of the debate, CBSN drew more than 2 million streams across platforms. Viewers spent more than 41 minutes each on average watching CBSN across devices on Saturday, an increase of 23% from the CBS News Democratic debate on Nov. 14 (also a Saturday), which averaged 8.55 million total viewers on television.
The previous Republican primary debates this year averaged 11.09 million viewers on Fox Business Network (Jan. 14), 12.47 million on Fox News Channel (Jan. 28) and 13.34 million on ABC last Saturday. On the Democratic side, the highest for three debates this year was 10.16 million on NBC in January; last Thursday’s Democratic gathering did a combined 8.03 million viewers on PBS.
Also last night, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” averaged a 4.4 overnight household rating and a 2.3 in adults 18-49 for its episode featuring Melissa McCarthy as host and Kanye West as musical guest. Despite what would seem to be a strong lineup, the result was down from the previous week when Larry David hosted and Bernie Sanders appeared in a cameo (5.1 in households, 2.4 in 18-49).