Fox News drew more than 12.8 million viewers in its coverage of the first 2024 Republican presidential debate on Wednesday.
The figure is the combined audience for Fox News and Fox Business Network, per Nielsen.
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The number also is well above expectations given the absence of Donald Trump from the stage. Some analysts had predicted an audience in the range of 5 million.
In the adults 25-54 demo, Fox News drew 2.82 million. The debate drew a total viewership of 11.1 million on Fox News and 1.7 million on Fox Business. Fox News Digital also posted an average minute audience of nearly 200,000, the highest day of minutes watched on the Fox News livestream this year.
Trump counter-programmed the debate, appearing in a pre-taped sit down interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Trump touted that interview as drawing more than 100 million views; that figure had risen to 235 million by Thursday afternoon. But it is not an apples-to-apples comparison of ratings. Twitter/X counts even a second-long glance as a view, meaning that the figure is measuring even those who scroll past the Carlson post. “Anyone who is logged into Twitter who views a Tweet counts as a view, regardless of where they see the Tweet (e.g. Home, Search, Profiles, etc.) or whether or not they follow the author,” Twitter/X explains.
Fox News drew 24 million viewers for its coverage of the first GOP presidential debate in 2015, a blockbuster figure that was attributed in part to Trump’s presence amid a field of establishment Republican contenders.
In 2020, NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo drew 15.3 million and 18.1 million, respectively, for the first and second nights of the initial Democratic presidential debate of the cycle.
That said, cable networks have seen overall viewership erosion, and news networks have been looking for a bump with the emerging presidential election campaign. Fox News said that the debate drew the highest-rated non-sports cable telecast so far in 2023, and also topped 70% of all presidential primary debates in the 2016 and 2020 cycles. The network also noted that the event’s viewership was larger than the Iowa debate in January 2016, which Trump also skipped. That averaged 12.5 million total viewers.
The GOP debate, from the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, featured eight candidates, with Nikki Haley and Mike Pence delivering standout moments but Vivek Ramaswamy also drawing attention for his brash style and clashes with other candidates. Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum moderated.
The next GOP debate will be on September 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, CA. Fox Business will telecast that event.
On Wednesday, Fox News topped primetime with an average of 8.46 million viewers, compared to 1.74 million for MSNBC and 889,000 for CNN. In the 25-54 demo, Fox News averaged 1.77 million viewers, compared to 212,000 for CNN and 191,000 for MSNBC.
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