Fox News Debate Ratings Set Stage for CNN Clash

After Fox trounces its rivals in first South Carolina showdown, focus turns to CNN's Thursday contest

Fox News’ GOP candidates’ debate in South Carolina on Monday drew 5.5 million total viewers and 1.6 million in the adults 25-54 demo, tripling the combined overall viewership of its cable competition for the night.

In an election season of seemingly endless televised disputes, South Carolina also provides a new opportunity for Fox and CNN to go head-to-head. CNN will air its own debate from the Palmetto State on Thursday, hosted by John King.

In the lead-up to each of the first two primaries, Iowa and New Hampshire, ABC, which has the built-in advantage of reaching more homes, aired one of the two debates, limiting a direct comparison between networks.

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ABC’s “Your Voice, Your Vote” telecast from Iowa is the most watched contest of the campaign thus far, drawing 7.6 million total viewers and 2.1 million in the demo.

The ratings for the Martin Luther King Day debate were lower than Fox’s prior two contests, which rank second and fourth amongst all debates (and first and second in cable), but ahead of its two earliest contests – one in August and one in May.

As compared to its fellow cable networks, the South Carolina debate surpassed all but CNN’s Western Republican Debate from Oct. 18 in total viewers, though it also trails MSNBC’s lone debate in the demo.