Fox Business Network’s Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in North Charleston, S.C. on Thursday drew in the lowest ratings of any GOP debate this election cycle.
According to CNN Money, Thursday’s 9 p.m. debate, which purposefully featured fewer candidates on its main stage than previous debates, only averaged around 11 million viewers. Politico notes that the previous prime-time Republican presidential debate on Fox Business Network drew in an average of 13.5 million viewers. A Republican presidential debate on CNN last month drew in an average of 18 million prime-time viewers. Variety cited the viewership of Fox News’ August GOP debate at 24 million, CNN’s September contest at 23.1 million, and CNBC’s October event at 14 million.
While Thursday’s GOP debate was the lowest rated of this election cycle, it still featured better ratings than the 5 to 7 million average viewers who tuned in to previous Republican primary debates during the 2008 and 2012 elections, a phenomenon attributed to the celebrity candidacy of billionaire Donald Trump, a television star who has always drawn in significant ratings in TV appearances.
Viewership of the undercard debate particularly plummeted. Fox Business Network’s November undercard drew in 4.7 million viewers versus 2 million in Thursday’s 6 p.m. contest.
Fox Business Network pointed out the fact that its November GOP presidential debate set a record for the most viewers of a live-streaming online presidential primary event at 1.4 million concurrent viewers. Thursday’s event only generated 1.16 million concurrent viewers at its peak. Fox Business Network allowed viewers to stream both debates online for free with or without a cable TV subscription.
Thursday’s debate featured Sen. Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich on its main stage and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former Sen. Rick Santorum in its undercard debate.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul was invited to participate in the undercard debate but boycotted the event over Fox Business Network’s decision to demote him from the contest’s main stage. The communications director for Sen. Paul’s campaign, Sergio Gor, told CNN Money that the campaign does not regret Paul’s decision to boycott the debate and added, “We participated in countless TV, radio and print interviews. Our TV reach alone exceeded 9 million viewers and we generated a news cycle.”
Thursday’s prime-time debate was moderated by Fox Business Network’s managing editor of business news Neil Cavuto and its global markets editor Maria Bartiromo. The undercard contest was moderated by anchors Sandra Smith and Trish Regan.
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