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TV Ratings: Iowa Caucus Debacle Draws 8.5 Million Viewers to Cable News Networks

The Iowa caucus which, for the Democratic Party at least, devolved into a disaster involving delayed numbers and a faulty app, drew a total of 8.5 million viewers across the three major cable networks.

That number is down roughly 17% on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC’s coverage of the last Iowa caucus in 2016.

During the traditional primetime block of 8 and 11 p.m. ET, Fox News walked away with a comfortable win in total viewership, drawing 4.4 million viewers to CNN’s 1.8 million and MSNBC’s 2.5 million.

In the key news demographic of adults 24-54, the primetime race was much closer, with Fox News still coming out on top with 793,000. down around 30% on its equivalent score from the 2016 Iowa caucuses. CNN came second with a hair over 700,000 (down almost 50% on 2016), while MSNBC came third with 612,000. However, MSNBC was the only of the three to be up (around 5% specifically) from the previous election cycle.

As the night dragged on and it became clear that the Democratic Party was unable to declare a winner until the next day, the networks had to stall and continue coverage in case the mess would sort itself out.

Around 7 million viewers stuck around across the three news cablers during the 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. time period. Fox News was again top network in the period with 3.4 million total viewers, to MSNBC’s 2.1 million and CNN’s 1.5 million. However, CNN won the demographic with 703,000 to Fox News’ 652,000 and MSNBC’s 609,000.

CNN came out on top in the 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. time frame, averaging 661,000 in the 25-54 demo. Fox News averaged 619,000, followed by MSNBC with 574,000.

Both Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed victory among the confusion, with Sanders releasing his campaign’s internal data from about 40% of Iowa’s precincts, which showed him in the lead, Buttigieg in second, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren in third.

A state party official said the results will be released sometime on Tuesday.

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