CNN-Tea Party Debate Wins Night, Falls Short of Earlier Debate Coverage by Rivals

Numbers are much lower than those for recent conservative-party debates on MSNBC and Fox

CNN’s Tea Party and Republican debate earned the network a rare ratings win over its cable news competitors Monday night, putting the network on top in both total viewers and the adults 25-54 demographic.

However, its 3.6 million total viewers and 1.1 million in the demo – while up over CNN’s last debate in June — came up short as compared to its rivals’ most recent conservative-party debate coverage — the NBC-Politico debate that aired on MSNBC Sept. 7 and the Fox News debate on Aug. 11.

MSNBC’s debate, which marked Rick Perry’s entrance into the oratorical free-for-alls, set the bar at 5.4 million viewers (and 1.73 in the demo) while FNC’s also topped the 5 million mark.

On that night, Rick Perry’s entrance was one factor in the robust ratings, as was the publicity generated by the dispute over the timing of Barack Obama’s jobs speech.

So what was the deal last night? Perhaps sports. Monday Night Football, one of the top programs in all of television, began before the debate and ended after it thanks to a doubleheader.

Then there was the U.S. Open, which though not nearly as significant, also overlapped with the program.

Or maybe there is another reason entirely — debate fatigue. This was the second conservative-party debate in a week, third in the past month and the latest in a seemingly endless string of appearances by the GOP competitors.

That said, with its rivals trending over the 5 million mark, a result of below 4 million is a pretty low number. FNC’s debate later this month, co-sponsored by Google, will put the fatigue theory to the test.