The question of whether CNN would be able to enter the same ratings orbit as Fox when it hosted the second GOP primary debate last night was answered with a resounding yes. CNN’s primetime, three-hour marathon of a debate drew 22.94 million viewers, according to Nielsen Fast National ratings–just over one million shy of the record-breaking 24 million that tuned into the first GOP debate on Fox. That number gave Fox the highest-rated non-sports cable program in history.
The 22.9 million was definitely a record for CNN, shattering its previous network high of 16.8 million people who tuned in to watch Ross Perot and Al Gore on a special episode of Larry King Live in 1993.
In addition to cable viewers, CNN’s livestream drew an additional 4.5 million viewers to the debate, peaking at 9:45 p.m. EST with 921,000 people live-streaming at the same time.
CNN’s undercard debate averaged 6.3 million viewers, a small bump up from Fox’s undercard debate, which averaged 6.1 million viewers.
We now live in a world where presidential primary debates have the power to harness tens of millions of viewers, creating [non-sports] cable network records in their wake. Interesting times, indeed.