UPDATED with more reliable stats: CNN’s GOP Debate last night clocked 18 million viewers, according to Nielsen stats, making it the second-most-watched program in CNN’s history. The debate, at the Venetian in Las Vegas, trails only CNN’s first GOP debate of this election cycle, which logged an average of 23 million in September.
For the RNC, last night’s crowd is a big improvement on the 13.5M it had attracted to its most recent debate, on Fox Business Network, also outstripping the 14M who’d tuned in to CNBC’s GOP debate before that. Last night’s debate ranks No. 3 among the slew of debates the RNC has sanctioned this White House race. At No. 1 remains FNC’s August debate with its whopping 24M viewers, followed by that earlier CNN debate with its 23M.
In the news demo, 25-54, last night’s debate averaged 5.6 million viewers.
To date, three of the Top 4 presidential primary debates this election cycle have aired on CNN. The most-watched Democratic debate in history, on October 13, averaged 15.5 million viewers on CNN.
Meanwhile, last night’s kids’ table debate copped 5.7 million total viewers, 1.4 million of them in the news demo.
PREVIOUS: Very early metered-market stats indicate the fifth episode of this season’s hot new TV series, The GOP Debate, clocked a crowd in the 20 million range. That puts the franchise back up toward the record-breaking numbers it earned in its premiere on Fox News Channel in August and second episode on CNN in September. Both of those debates logged more than 23 million viewers, breaking network and cable news records.
To keep the crowd watching as the night wore on, moderators saved the biggest moment for the end, when Hugh Hewitt challenged Donald Trump to say whether he’s ready to commit to remaining with the Republican Party. (Trump earlier had threatened to leave after a report surfaced of RNC plans for a brokered convention that would not have gone well for the reality TV star-turned-GOP front-runner.)
“I really am,” Trump simpered. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (or, as Ben Carson seemed to call him during the debate, Reince Prubis) exhaled for the first time in the evening. “I’ve gained great respect for Republican leadership … and for, in different forms, everyone on the dais,” Trump said in his close-up moment. “I’ve never done this process before. … I will tell you, I am totally committed to the Republican Party. I feel very honored to be the front-runner. … I will do everything in my power to beat Hillary Clinton.”