24 Million Watch GOP Debate on Fox News; Most-Watched Cable News Program Ever

By Chris Ariens 

In the estimation of many reporters who cover the political and media beats, Fox News was the winner of the first GOP debate. And with the just-released ratings we can confirm that.

A whopping 24 million watched the debate from 9 p.m. ET to just past 11 p.m. ET. FNC drew 7.9 million in the A25-54 demo.

This is now the highest non-sports cable program of all time, the highest-rated cable news program of all time, and Fox News’s most-watched program ever.


The 5 p.m. ET debate, withe the 7 lower-tier candidates did very well for Fox News too, drawing 6.1 million total viewers and 1.2 million in the demo, making it the third-highest primary debate ever on cable.

In the 2012 cycle, the first GOP debate, also on Fox News, and airing much earlier — on May 5, 2011 — was watched by 3.258 million viewers. The most-watched primary debate drew 7.630 million on ABC on the night of Dec. 10, 2011.

Going back to the 2008 cycle, when, like this go-round, there were open Democratic and Republican tickets,  the first GOP debate on Oct. 9, 2007, simulcast on MSNBC and CNBC, drew a combined 2.141 million. The most-watched GOP debate of that cycle was on ABC, when 7.350 million watched the Jan. 5, 2008 face-off.

Nielsen Social TV ratings ranked last night’s debate as the number one event on Twitter with 3.3 million tweets and 393 million impressions, beating Jon Stewart’s farewell episode. The debate, which was co-sponsored by Facebook, increased interactions on FNC’s Facebook page by +74 percent from a typical day in July. The 10 million Facebook video views were up +190 percent compared to the daily July 2015 average.