24 million watched US presidential debate: Fox

Donald Trump (right) and Scott Walker arrive on stage for the start of the Republican debate.
Donald Trump (right) and Scott Walker arrive on stage for the start of the Republican debate.AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A staggering 24 million viewers tuned in to the first major Republican debate of the US presidential election cycle, the highest-rated non-sports telecast in the history of cable television, Fox News reported Friday.

“Fox had 24 million viewers last night. That is an absolutely monster number,” tweeted Fox media commentator Howard Kurtz.

The viewership of the prime-time 9pm to 11pm Anchordebate, in which frontrunner billionaire 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.

The viewership of the prime-time 9pm to 11pm debate, in which frontrunner billionaire 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, citing figures from ratings monitor Nielsen Media Research, also said the telecast drew 7.9 million viewers in the 25-54 age range, the key advertising demographic.

Numbers were also huge for the second-tier debate which took place at 5pm on 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, Fox said, citing Nielsen.

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.

Kurtz argued that the sky-high viewership was a combination of  “huge public interest, Trump, August lull and riveting television”.

The results are not just good news for Fox.

The Republicans will host at least eight more debates as the party whittles down its broad field and determines its flagbearer to go up against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The next Republican debate is scheduled for Sept 16 in California and broadcast on CNN.

The debut Democratic Party debate is scheduled for Oct 13 in Nevada, also on CNN.