CNN Debate Draws 22.9 Million Viewers

A record for the network.

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.