GOP Debate Logs 13.5 Million Viewers, Record For Fox Business Network

Updated with final stats:  The 13.5 million viewers who watched Fox Business Network’s GOP debate last night set another best-ever record for the debate-hosting cable news network. It also was the second most watched TV program of the night on cable or broadcast, behind only – you know it’s coming, CBS’s NCIS, which logged 16.7 million viewers. In the news demo, 25-54 year olds, the debate snagged 3.6M viewers to NCIS’s 4.1M.

Thanks to debate interest, FBC boasted the night’s four most watched cable programs, starting with the debate at No. 1, followed by an 11:17 PM ET telecast of Cavuto Coast To Coast (5.26M), the kids’ table debate (4.7M), and an 8:15 PM telecast of Lou Dobbs Tonight (4M).

Last month, CNBC, which is available in more homes, logged 14 million viewers with its GOP debate, against Game 2 of the World Series.  In an effort to maximize viewing, FBN had brokered deals to get DirecTV and a “significant number” of cable systems to unbundle the network last night, making it available to all of their subscribers. Minus un-bundling, eight-year-old FBN is available in about 82M homes, according to Nielsen and SNL Kagan, compared to CNBC’s 93-97 million homes depending on your source.

This presidential elections cycle’s dizzying debate ratings started in August when an eye-popping 24 million people watched real estate mogul/reality TV star Donald Trump make his GOP debate debut on Fox News Channel. The next month, CNN’s GOP debate clocked a slightly smaller crowd of 23 million and ad rates climbed to $200K per 30-second spot. CNBC 14 million viewers still is nearly twice as many viewers as the most watched debate in ’12  on any network. And the ad rate approaching $250K is unheard of for debate telecasts.

Last night’s debate featured moderators from Fox Business Network and Wall Street Journal putting questions to a culled crowd of eight White House hopefuls.

“The debate last night was excellent and showcased FBN as a world class financial network,”  Fox News/Fox Business Network chairman/CEO Roger Ailes said today in a memo to staff. “Every one of our team leaders accomplished our goal of presenting a serious, meaningful debate while holding the audience.”

According to Amobee Brand Intelligence, interest in the debates may have peaked. The company reported 1,542,285 tweets during the duration of the debate, compared to 1,804,635 tweets during the most recent, CNBC GOP debate. Marco Rubio was the only candidate who generated more positive than negative tweets,  but he generated the smallest amount of tweets among the candidates during the clambake. Guess who won the twitter debate, volume-wise:

1. Donald Trump (217,017 )
2. Ted Cruz (139,455 )
3. Ben Carson (129,150 )
4. John Kasich (113,607 )
5. Carly Fiorina (74,304)
6. Jeb Bush (70,812 )
7. Rand Paul  (37,467)
8. Marco Rubio (23,283 )

TiVo also weighed in with its Top Five Debate Moments, according to its survey from a sample of 30,000 anonymous household:

1. Rand Paul: “We might want to point out China’s not a part of this deal.”  That after Trump responded to a question about the Trans-Pacific Partnership with a condemnation of China’s role in the world economy.
2. Donald Trump: “It’s something where the Democrats and the Republicans both agree — it’s the only thing I can think of.” That’s Trump responding to Neil Cavuto’s question about his plans to get companies to bring money they have parked overseas back to the US.
3. Trump: “We cannot let Hillary Clinton, who is the worst Secretary of State in the history of our country, win this election.”
4. Maria Bartiromo: “If [Clinton] is indeed the nominee, you will be facing a candidate with an impressive resume.”
5. Marco Rubio: “So tonight, I ask you for your vote and I ask you to join us at my website,” That was how the candidate wrapped his closing statement, leading Bartiromo to be heard commenting to her fellow moderators, “He’s funny.” That gave Trump the opening for his  closing statement: “I don’t have to give you a website because I’m self-funding my campaign.”

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