CNN’s GOP Debate Scores Highest Rating in Network History With Nearly 20 Million Viewers

Early overnight ratings for the three-hour debate show a 4.7 household rating

Last Updated: September 17, 2015 @ 7:56 AM

CNN’s GOP debate attracted nearly 20 million viewers, early estimates show, making it the highest rated program in the network’s three decades on-air.

The early overnight ratings for the three-hour debate showed a 4.7 household rating, which translates to nearly 20 million viewers. Official ratings will come out Thursday afternoon.

Even with the strong numbers, CNN’s performance will fall a bit short Fox News’ 24 million viewers, which network chief Jeff Zucker said he expected.

As TheWrap previously reported, CNN has been widely criticized by its media colleagues for the length and tone of its debate. But numbers don’t lie and executives and producers will be smiling wide on Thursday with historic numbers to look at.

It also sets up high expectations for the network’s first Democratic debate on Oct. 13, which will draw interest from liberals and conservatives around the country who are eager to see how Hillary Clinton answers questions.

Bernie Sanders will also have all eyes on him as progressives and independents look to see if his summer surge is the real deal.