Here’s How Many People Watched the NBC News Republican Primary Debate

By A.J. Katz 

Nielsen viewing data for the third Republican presidential primary debate of the 2024 campaign cycle is here, and as expected, ratings are down from both the second debate, and the first debate.

The two-hour live event hosted by NBC News and held on Wednesday, November 8  from 8-10 p.m. ET, drew an average of 7.51 million total viewers across NBC, NBC News Now,, Peacock, Sky News, Universo, and Noticias Telemundo’s social platforms.

Out of the 7.51 million, 6.86 million watched the proceedings on the NBC broadcast network; and out of that 6.86 million total, just 1.31 million hail from the Adults 25-54 demo–the age-range that TV news advertisers covet.


On the digital front, the debate gave NBC News Now–NBC’s ad-supported streaming news platform–its largest primetime audience ever and its highest peak audience on record for last night’s coverage.

Last night’s debate was also the second most-watched GOP primary debate in NBCU News Group’s history.

Roughly 9.5 million people watched the second debate of the 2024 election cycle (co-hosted by Fox Business and Univision) across Fox News Media and Univision linear and streaming platforms on September 27 (1.82 million on FBN, 6.69 million on Fox News, 813,000 on Univision). Previously, 12.8 million people watched the first debate of the 2024 election cycle across Fox News Media linear and streaming platforms on August 23 (11.09 million on Fox News, 1.7 million on FBN) — the most-watched non-sports telecast of 2023 to-date.

For comparison purposes, that means there was about a -26% decrease in total viewers from the FBN-Univision GOP debate, and a -46% decrease in total viewers relative to the Fox News GOP debate, the first of the 2024 cycle.

Looking back at third presidential primary debates, ABC and Univision co-hosted the third Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2020 election cycle. That live broadcast averaged 14.04 million total linear viewers, per Nielsen data (12.93 million of whom watched on ABC).

Reasons for the drop-off in viewership may be three-fold: 1) Debate fatigue. 2) Conservatives/GOP voters are increasingly sticking to Fox News and other right-leaning media outlets for their news content over broadcast and the non-Fox cable news outlets. It’s why Fox News-hosted GOP primary debates have captured more viewers than GOP debates hosted by the broadcast networks over the past decade, despite the discrepancy in reach. 3) The debate was going up against the Country Music Awards on ABC, an event that draws a heavily conservative/Republican audience.

Fox News still holds the presidential primary debate viewership record: 24 million watched the Republicans battle it out in August 2015. That was the first GOP debate of the 2016 election cycle, starring then-reality TV show host Donald Trump, and it still stands as the most-watched non-sports cable program of all time, and Fox News’s most-watched program ever.

Wednesday night’s debate was held in Miami, and co-moderated by NBC News’ Lester Holt, Kristen Welker and The Hugh Hewitt Show host Hugh Hewitt on Salem Radio Network.  Participants included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor and ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, business executive Vivek Ramaswamy,  and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

The fourth Republican presidential primary debate of the 2024 election cycle will air on NewsNation and the CW and take place on December 6 at the University of Alabama.