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.

Fourth Republican Debate Nov 10 2015

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, 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.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    So I suppose Trump’s contention that he and he alone brings in the big numbers is, ah, not quite true.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    All of which means that more than 13M Americans were treated to a pack of lies, and the liars who told those lies.

  3. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @C. Clavin: You’re stating the obvious. Politicians don’t lie because they are venal, mendacious, and self-serving. They lie because if they don’t lie they have nothing to say.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: No, they lie because if they didn’t nobody would believe them.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    Nearly everybody likes a clown show!

  6. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    First, it was behind a paywall. But far more ominous for T.V. advertisers, less than five million people per day now get their news from all cable news shows combined. 13 million just continues that anemia.

    That, and these people just aren’t serious. The whole point was to cash out next Spring with enough face time to secure book tours, paid speeches, and appearances on cable news that no one watches, a moribund suckling of the Citizen’s United teat.

    Now that we’ve experienced peaks Carson and Trump, make way for Rubio, who will falter, and then Cruz, who will falter further, paving the way for… wait for it… Jeb. Trump will either quit when he gets to third place, or take Carson with him to form the REAL GOP with REAL men to solve REAL problems. Donald sets the rules.

    It was always going to be Jeb. And, he will lose the general.

    The pyramid comments by Dr. Carson are fascinating. It’s said to rub sand in the eyes of scientists, being unburdened by that pesky proof and whatnot. This plays well to other people who place belief above, well, anything else, really. It teaches them to be just as irresponsible, as the pyramids remain solid stone, and demonstrably devoid of grain, to say the least of the time-travel problems Joseph would have encountered.

    And they don’t care because they don’t have to. How could they, then, be possibly made responsible to voters on any subject? When you add the Rapture mentality, you have people having abdicated any kind of responsibility for the present, to say nothing of the future, anything to avoid ever having to admit that perhaps a lifetime of belief was wasted.

    Whatever the GOP primary game is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with governing. It’s flat out embarrassing.

  7. the other Jack says:

    As of now, FBN is available on far viewer television sets than CNBC. So it should be no surprise that they had a smaller audience.

  8. Rick DeMent says:

    Well heck if there were no “gotcha” questions an if they weren’t going to fight with each other what would the point of watching be. 🙂 This is starting to look a lot like NASCAR, watching the boring stuff to see the wrecks.

  9. J-Dub says:

    @James in Silverdale, WA:

    less than five million people per day now get their news from all cable news shows combined

    A. This might be a good thing, except for…
    B. “their news” instead of “the news” is quite right.

    These days, people seek out sources of news that suit their particular belief system. I don’t see how we can ever get back to any kind of objective news reporting, assuming that ever existed.

  10. J-Dub says:

    @the other Jack: I didn’t even know I get FBN. I had to search for it. I definitely did not know that Maria Bartiromo had gone over there.

  11. steve s says:

    @C. Clavin: You’re stating the obvious. Politicians don’t lie because they are venal, mendacious, and self-serving. They lie because if they don’t lie they have nothing to say.

    No, they lie because it works. If lying didn’t work, they’d do something else. Lying works.

  12. WR says:

    This is still 12,999,000 more viewers than Fox Business has ever had at any given time.

  13. al-Ameda says:

    I honestly think that many people are not going to “tune in”
    until the conventions next summer.

    People feel like the campaigns have been going on forever, and that nothing of substance has transpired (true, except for imploding wannabees like Jindal, Rand and Mike, nothing has happened.) Also, many people view the debates as opportunities for the candidates to again say nothing new or controversial, or to avoid the moderators’ queries by answering the questions they want to.

    People like me are going by the wayside, I’m a politics junkie, I usually watch this stuff, I also look for entertainment value – not many people watch the debates. I suspect that an incredibly boring generic NFL pre-season game gets higher ratings than most presidential candidate debates.