According to early Nielsen ratings, Fox News Channel’s (FNC) GOP Presidential primary debate Thursday night scored 16.9 million viewers, marking the highest-rated debate of 2016.
Moderated by Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace, the debate also broke the previous debate demo record for the year, delivering 5.5 million in the 25-54 age group.
The debate featured the return of the leading Republican candidate Donald Trump who boycotted the last debate on Fox in January due to a dispute with the network and moderator Megyn Kelly. That debate only drew 12+ million viewers without Trump.
Telecast live from the FOX Theatre in downtown Detroit, the debate ranks as the fourth-highest primary debate in history. Additionally, the matchup between the four remaining candidates notched the second highest-rated telecast in Fox News Channel’s nearly 20 year history. FNC holds the record for the highest-rated non-sports cable telecast of all time with the August 6th GOP presidential primary debate with over 24 million viewers. A special post-debate The O’Reilly Factor last night (11pm-12am) delivered 7.4 million viewers, marking the show’s highest-rated telecast of the year.
On the digital side, the Fox News debate live stream had 2.4 million video starts and peaked at 1,489,937 concurrent streams, according to Omniture and Akamai. This marks the most-watched primary event ever, via live stream. CNN drew under one million concurrent streams (708,000) for the most recent February 25th GOP debate. In a first for a TV news anchor, Bret Baier was featured on the official Instagram account and blog garnering nearly 430,000 likes. Instagram featured a behind the scenes look at the FOX News debate through the work of several photojournalists on the ground in Detroit.