Last night’s Republican Presidential debate on CNN averaged at 18 million viewers, thanks in no small part to the can’t-look-away Donald Trump, making it the third-most-watched primary debate of all time. The two-hour debate was at the same time as hit drama “NCIS: Los Angeles” and the season finale of “The Voice”, and outrated both of them. These results were in line with expectations, ranking well ahead of the CNBC and Fox Business Network forums in October and November.
Nonetheless, the GOP rematch didn’t top the ratings for the first two debates of the season. Fox News averaged about 25 million viewers in August, and CNN averaged 24 million in September, back when people were much more curious about a Trump debate. Yet now, viewers know what to expect, although many of them are returning for every single debate, due in no small part to the fact that the GOP debate features a lot more flamboyant personalities than its Democratic counterpart. Prime time GOP debate ratings for this year are three to four times higher than in 2011. To put that in perspective, a Fox News GOP debate on the same day four years ago averaged 6.7 million viewers, which was considered very high for the time. The 2015 debates, however, have handily beaten all previous ratings records for both Fox and CNN, giving GOP candidates an unusually high-profile platform.
This has served as a spillover effect for the Democratic party as well. The only Democratic primary debate on cable news this year, CNN’s October debate, averaged at 15.3 million viewers. Yesterday’s rematch, however, now ranks as CNN’s second-most-watched program of all time. It also drew a big Internet audience, which was measured separately from the TV broadcast. The simultaneous streaming came close to matching CNN’s September GOP debate, which peaked at 921,000 viewers.
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