Fox Business Network Debate Draws Roughly 13 Million Viewers, The Fewest Of Any Debate So Far
Ratings slipped for last night's debate, but the numbers were still very respectable.
The preliminary ratings for last night’s Fox Business Network Republican Debate indicate that ratings once again slipped from the highs that we saw at the beginning of the cycle, although the debate did attract a significant number of viewers:
More than 13 million people tuned in to Fox Business Network to watch the fourth Republican presidential debate on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, according to Nielsen ratings data provided on Wednesday by the business news network.
The viewership was the most ever in the history of the business news network, but less than previous debates in the 2016 presidential race. The highest rated debate so far this campaign season was the first on Fox News in August, which drew 24 million viewers. A subsequent debate on CNN in September drew nearly 23 million viewers.
On Tuesday, Fox Business Network tried to distinguish itself from rival CNBC, which faced a barrage of criticism for its handling of the previous Republican debate two weeks ago. That event, which drew 14 million viewers, became a lightning rod for complaints about the focus of the questions, a perceived bias and a lack of speaking time.
The debate, which had 13.5 million viewers and received generally positive reviews, was moderated by Mr. Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo, both Fox Business Network anchors, and Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal.
The event was a big moment for Fox Business Network. Started eight years ago, the network is available in about 82 million homes, less than the 97 million homes where CNBC, CNN and Fox News are available.
Fox Business Network also streamed the debate on its website FoxBusiness.com, where usage peaked at 1.4 million concurrent streams at 10:15 p.m., according to Akami, a measurement company. That beat CNN’s 921,000 concurrent streams for its Republican debate and the 1.3 million concurrent live streams that NBC reported for the 2015 Super Bowl.
These numbers are, of course, below the 24 million that watched the first Republican debate, the 22 million who watched the second debate, othe 15 million who watched the first Democratic debate, and the 14 million who watched the CNBC debate that aired on the same night as Game Two of the World Series. To some degree, this would seem to indicate that the debates are losing their ability attract large audience as the novelty factor wears off, but its also worth nothing that the fact that this debate aired on Fox Business Network may have had at least something to do with the numbers. The network, which is still relatively new in the “business news” category, is carried by roughly only 74% of cable providers while it’s primary rival CNBC is available on well over 90%. Given that, and adding in the numbers from the livestream, 13.5 million viewers is fairly impressive and indicates that there is still high interest in the election among voters and viewers.
The next debate is a Democratic debate that will, oddly, air this coming Saturday evening on CBS. While being on an over-the-air broadcast network could mean that more people will end up watching, the odd timing of the debate and the fact that Saturday nights are generally a low viewership night for television to begin with leads one to expect lower numbers than we’ve seen to date, especially since we’re approaching the point where the outcome of the Democratic race is pretty much a certainty. After Saturday, the next debate is a Republican debate that will originate from Las Vegas and air December 15th on CNN, which has already carried one debate in this election cycle for each of the parties. That will be followed by another Democratic debate originating from New Hampshire that will also air on a Saturday, December 19th, on ABC. After those two debates, there will be nothing further until after the New Year since we’re heading into the holiday season. After the new year, there will be one debate for each party in January before the Iowa Caucuses, and then more debates in New Hampshire and South Carolina during the months of February. Whether voter interest keeps up during this period will be a good indication of just how engaged voters are in this election.