The GOP Debate Was A Ratings Record Breaker & Here's Why That's Crazy

Erik Pendzich/REX USA
If seemed like the whole country came together to watch the Republican Presidential primary debate on Thursday night, you weren't imagining things. The ratings are in and the debate smashed cable TV records to become the highest-rated non-sports cable telecast of all time. According to Nielsen, it was also the highest-rated cable news program of all time and became the most-watched program of all time on Fox News.
By the numbers, a total of 24 million people tuned in but of those only 7.9 million were in the 24-54 demo. This tells us that a massive chunk of the viewers were likely older voters. But, in a press release, Fox News revealed that they have served over 8 million streams from the debate, including 2.5 million simulcast viewers, who are likely younger audience.

To put this in perspective, here's a breakdown on how many viewers some other cable TV events have gotten:
The 2014 MTV VMAs (featuring Beyoncé as the Lifetime Achievement winner): 8.3 million viewers

Mad Men's
series finale: 4.6 million viewers, a series high
Breaking Bad's series finale: 10.3 million viewers, also a series high
Duck Dynasty's 2013 season four premiere: 11.8 million viewers, breaking the record for most-watched non-fiction series telecast in cable history (at the time)
Walking Dead's 2014 season five premiere: 17.3 million viewers, breaking the record for highest-rated live/same day non-sports telecast in cable history

The debate gave Fox News a viewership lift over their 2014 average nightly number of 1.7 million but the network is already far ahead of CNN and MSNBC in viewership. Those two networks trail it with a nightly average of 515,000 and 169,000 viewers each, respectively.

The GOP debate was a high on Twitter also, generating 3.3 million tweets while Fox News reported their Facebook page got 1.5 million interactions that evening, up 93% from the daily July average.

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