WASHINGTON: A staggering 24 million viewers tuned in to Fox News to watch the first major Republican US presidential debate, the highest-rated non-sports telecast in cable television history, Nielsen figures released Friday showed.
The viewership of the prime time 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. debate, in which frontrunner Donald Trump squared off against nine of his top Republican challengers for the nomination, is by far the highest rating of any presidential primary debate.
“Fox had 24 million viewers last night. That is an absolutely monster number,” tweeted Fox media commentator Howard Kurtz.
Ratings monitor Nielsen Media Research said that among the telecast’s viewers, 7.9 million were in the 25-54 age range, the key advertising demographic.
By comparison, the first Republican debate of the 2012 primary season, on May 5, 2011, averaged 3.3 million viewers.
Numbers were also huge for the second-tier debate which took place at 5:00 pm Thursday and featured the seven low-polling candidates who failed to make the cut for the prime time event.
Some 6.1 million people watched the preliminary debate, Nielsen said.
The debate night appears to have been a multi-platform smash.
Facebook, which co-sponsored the showdowns, said 7.5 million people in the United States made 20 million debate-related interactions on Facebook, including likes, posts, comments and shares, the social media giant said Friday.
Twitter reported that tweets about the two debates were viewed a whopping 1.1 billion times.