Fox scores higher than expected ratings for GOP debate

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Fox’s telecast of the first Republican debate of the 2024 election cycle attracted 12.8 million viewers, according to preliminary data from Nielsen.

That number is reportedly higher than had been expected, mainly because, after frontrunner Donald Trump opted out of participating, some wondered if the debate would still be of interest.

This could be a sign that there might be interest in other candidates taking over the ticket.

Trump is currently facing multiple indictments in relation to his actions alleged during the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection, mishandling of classified material and attempted interference with the 2020 election in Georgia. There are multiple other investigations against Trump that could result in additional indictments.

Nielsen said that 11.1 million watched the debate on Fox’s flagship cable channel, with another 2.8 million watching a simulcast on Fox Business. 2.1 million of those viewers were in the prized age 25-54 demographic. The median age was 67.

Sean Hannity’s post-debate coverage racked up around 4.4 million viewers.

MSNBC and CNN also provided post-debate coverage starting at 11 p.m. eastern, just like Hannity. MSNBC got 2.1 million and CNN was last with 1.2 million.

Meanwhile, Trump attempted to draw eyeballs from the debate by sitting down for a taped interview with former Fox star Tucker Carlson. The video was released at 8:55 p.m., about five minutes before Fox’s debate started, on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Publicly available viewership counts show that the 46-minute video had nearly 256 million views within 48 hours, though these numbers are not considered reliable because, in part, the reportedly count a “view” each time a video appears on a user’s screen and at least two seconds of content plays.

This does not account for users who simply had the video appear on their device screen and had it automatically play but were not actually focused on it. The figure also does not separate out multiple views by the same user.

The figure Twitter provides is also cumulative since the time the clip was posted, whereas Nielsen data can provide a look at how many people were watching at a particular time, while also accounting for competing programming. Separate Nielsen data is typically provided that accounts for DVR and on-demand views of programming.