CNN’s Tea Party debate delivers rare ratings victory

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

Monday's Republican debate that CNN co-produced with the Tea Party Express--odd as it was--delivered a rare ratings victory for the cable news network.

According to Nielsen overnight data, the GOP debate--which aired between 8 and 10 p.m. ET--drew 3.6 million total viewers, including 1.1 million in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic coveted by advertisers.

Those numbers were enough to outpace ratings powerhouse Fox News, which claimed 1.9 million total viewers and 370,000 25-to-54-year-olds during the two-hour span. MSNBC, with 643,000 total viewers and 161,000 in the 25-to-54 demo, was a distant third.

CNN also managed to increase the audience from its last GOP debate broadcast, on June 13. That one drew 3.2 million total viewers, and 918,000 24-to-54-year-olds.

CNN's ratings win came despite stiff competition from the TV sports world. The debate was up against the first "Monday Night Football" broadcast of the 2011-2012 NFL season on ESPN, and also overlapped with the four-hour-plus U.S. Open men's tennis championship on CBS. (Total viewers for "Monday Night Football" have yet to be released. But according to, the "MNF" broadcast of the New England Patriots-Miami Dolphins game--from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET--delivered a total rating of 14.568, compared to a 3.613 for CNN's debate.)

Still, CNN was unable to match last week's NBC/Politico-produced debate. The event drew 5.4 total viewers for MSNBC on Thursday, and 1.7 million 25-to-54-year-olds.

Fox News' GOP debate on Aug. 11 drew more than 5 million total viewers, and 1.4 million in the 25-to-54 demo, per Nielsen.