NBC’s GOP debate Monday night, replete with fireworks between front runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, earned the second highest ratings of any contest in this election cycle.
More than seven million people tuned in for the debate, a figure outdone only by ABC’s Dec. 10 event in Iowa.
That leaves CBS as the lone broadcast network outside the top five, as its only debate in November drew just short of 5.5 million viewers. Fox has not aired a debate thus far, leaving the events to their highly-rated cable network, Fox News.
Both ABC and Fox News have two of five highest-rated debates thus far with Monday night’s contest rounding out the top five.
NBC staged a tricky bit of scheduling, qualifying the debate as a special edition of its “Rock Center with Brian Williams” newsmagazine.
Despite a few high-profile episodes, such as an exclusive interview with disgraced Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky and the introduction of Chelsea Clinton as a correspondent, the show had yet to surpass 4.5 million total viewers for any episode.
“Rock Center” is set to move to Wednesday on Feb. 8 though the comedy lead-in of “Whitney” and “Are You There Chelsea?” seem unlikely to provide a significant lead-in surge in ratings for a newsmagazine.