TV Ratings: Saturday GOP Debate Rebounds, Nabs 13.2 Million Viewers

The first Republican showdown off of cable marks a slight uptick in ratings — and a broadcast best.

Saturday night's all right for fighting — if you're the GOP. Bucking the weekend slot ratings trend, and an overall downward trajectory of the past few months, the Republican candidates' latest debate managed to improve in the ratings.

Overnight returns give the ABC News debate a 9.3 rating among Nielsen's metered market households, and Fast National data have it averaging 13.2 million viewers.. That's up from both of the January debates, on Fox Business Network (7.4 rating, 11.1 millionn viewers) and Fox News Channel (8.4 rating, 12.5 million viewers), the latter of which did not feature an appearance by Donald Trump.

The latest debate's viewership was seen by many, including a vocal Trump, as smaller than it would have been with the firebrand candidate. FNC did boast a better showing in the key news demo, however, averaging 3.5 million adults 25-54 compared to ABC News' 3.4 million.

Regardless of how far off final viewership is from the recent debates, Saturday will easily mark the biggest showing on a broadcast network this cycle. All previous GOP debates, which are averaging significantly higher audiences than the Democrats, aired on cable. The best broadcast debate thus far was NBC's Jan. 17 showdown between the Democrats. That averaged 10.2 million viewers.

ABC's debate was not the only political game on TV last night. Democrat Bernie Sanders made a cameo on Saturday Night Live, which averaged a steady 5.1 household rating for the NBC sketch show.

See below for a complete rundown of debate audiences to date. 


Aug. 8 — 24 million  (FNC)
Sept. 16 – 23 million (CNN)
Oct. 28 — 14 million (CNBC)
Nov. 10 — 13.5 million (FBN)
Dec. 15 — 18.2 million (CNN)
Jan. 14 — 11.1 million (FBN)
Jan. 28 — 12.5 million (FNC)
Feb. 6 — 13.2 million (ABC)


Oct. 13 — 15.8 million (CNN)
Nov. 14 — 8.6 million (CBS)
Dec. 19 — 8 million (ABC)
Jan. 17 — 10.2 million (NBC)
Feb. 4 — 4.5 million (MSNBC)

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