With the frontrunner sitting things out, the first debate of the 2024 Republican presidential primary still drew a big audience for Fox News.
Wednesday’s debate in Milwaukee, which featured eight candidates looking to challenge former president Donald Trump — who decided not to take part — averaged about 13 million viewers across platforms, according to Nielsen ratings and Fox’s own streaming measurement. While that’s way below the 24 million who tuned into the first GOP primary debate in 2015, when Trump’s campaign was just taking off, it did beat the 12.5 million for Fox News’ last primary debate without Trump. That one took place in January 2016 in Iowa.
Fox News averaged 11.09 million viewers for the two-hour debate, moderated by Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier. Fox Business had 1.7 million viewers, while streaming on Fox Nation and Fox News Digital made up the remaining 200,000 or so.
The debate easily had the biggest audience for any primetime program on Wednesday and was the most watched non-sports telecast of 2023 so far, beating out the same-day total of 8.19 million for a New Year’s Day airing of Yellowstone on Paramount Network.
Fox News and Fox Business combined for 2.82 million viewers in the key news demographic of adults 25-54, also Wednesday’s best total by a wide margin.
As for Trump, the former president (currently under indictment in four separate criminal cases) sat for a pretaped interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the latter released on X Wednesday night. As of publication time, the interview had 235.2 million views on the platform — with a “view” counting as two seconds. Applying the two-second standard to the debate, it had the equivalent of 46.8 billion views.