Record viewership for the debate involving the top 10 Republican presidential candidates gave Fox News Channel its most-watched week since 2003, figures released Tuesday show.
Last Thursday’s debate averaged 24 million viewers, the most for a non- sports program in cable television history, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen.
The debate was the most-watched television program since the FIFA Women’s World Cup final on July 6 on Fox, which averaged 25.4 million viewers, and averaged more viewers than any of the six games of the NBA Finals on ABC or the seven games of the World Series on Fox.
A 50-minute edition of “The O’Reilly Factor” that preceded the debate averaged 6.58 million viewers, putting it second among prime-time cable programs that aired between Aug. 3 and Sunday and 11th among all prime-time programs.
“The Kelly File,” which followed the debate on Fox News and aired outside of prime time, averaged 10.93 million viewers — more than any prime- time program other than the debate and NBC’s coverage of the NFL Hall of Fame Game.
The debate involving the second tier of Republican candidates in the polls averaged 6.06 million viewers. That debate aired outside of prime time.
Fox News averaged 4.26 million viewers for its prime-time programming for the week, the third-largest number in its 19-year history and most among cable networks.
Fox News averaged more viewers than the combined total of the week’s next two most-watched cable networks — Disney Channel (1.82 million) and TNT (1.62 million).
The start of NFL preseason play made NBC the most-watched network for the first time since the week of May 25-31, averaging 5.57 million viewers.
NBC had each of the three most-watched shows behind the Republican presidential debate. Its NFL Hall of Fame Game averaged 10.98 million viewers, the most for a preseason game since 2010, when the Hall of Fame game between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals averaged 11.4 million viewers.
The audience was the largest for an NBC program since the June 23 episode of “America’s Got Talent” that averaged 11.08 million.
“America’s Got Talent” was the week’s only other program besides the Republican debate and Hall of Fame Game to average more than 9 million viewers, finishing third for the week with 10.21 million viewers.
CBS finished second for the week, averaging 5.23 million viewers after winning five of the previous six weeks. “60 Minutes” was CBS’ most-watched program, averaging 8.72 million viewers, fifth for the week.
ABC was third among the major broadcast networks, averaging 3.6 million viewers, followed by Fox, which averaged 2.07 million.
ABC’s most-watched program was the three-hour “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” at 18th for the week with 5.23 million viewers. Fox’s most-watched program was “MasterChef,” 24th for the week, averaging 4.94 million viewers.
NBC was first among viewers ages 18-49 for the third consecutive week, averaging 1.88 million viewers.
NBC’s “Mr. Robinson” averaged 4.6 million viewers, the most for a premiere of a summer comedy since June 4, 2007, when CBS’ stop-motion animated series “Creature Comforts” averaged 6.19 million viewers.
“Mr. Robinson” was second in its Wednesday 9-9:30 p.m. time slot and 30th for the week. It won its time slot and was 21st for the week among viewers ages 18-49, the harder-to-reach group that ABC, Fox and NBC target and advertisers covet.
A second episode of “Mr. Robinson” that aired from 9:30-10 p.m. averaged 3.75 million viewers, second in the time slot and 46th for the week. It won the time slot among viewers ages 18-49 and was 33rd for the week.
The Republican debate was the week’s most-tweeted about prime-time program, with 3.29 million tweets in the three hours before and after it aired. The ABC Family drama “Pretty Little Liars” was second with 222,000 tweets.
The NFL Hall of Fame game was the week’s most-tweeted about sporting event with 138,000 tweets. The Sunday morning English Premier League soccer game between Arsenal and West Ham United was second with 86,000 tweets from the U.S.
The week’s most-watched Spanish-language program was the Tuesday episode of the Telemundo telenovela “El Senor de los Cielos,” which averaged 2.79 million viewers, putting it 75th among all prime-time broadcast and cable programs.
As usual, Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network, averaging 1.9 million viewers. Telemundo was second (1.5 million), followed by UniMas (530,000), Estrella TV (160,000), MundoFox (140,000) and Azteca America (90,000).
The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the seventh consecutive week, averaging 7.85 million viewers. ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was second, averaging 7.49 million, followed by the “CBS Evening News” anchored by Scott Pelley (6.58 million).
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were Fox News Channel’s Republican presidential debate; NBC’s coverage of the NFL Hall of Fame game, “America’s Got Talent” and 11-minute Hall of Fame game pregame show; CBS’ “60 Minutes,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS”; NBC’s “World’s Got Talent” and the Wednesday edition of “America’s Got Talent”; and the Sunday and Wednesday editions of CBS’ “Big Brother.”
— Wire reports