Fox News pulled a Nielsen 16.9 million average viewers and 5.5 million key 25-54 viewers -- also the fourth best of all GOP debates.
The previous GOP debate on February 25 on CNN/Telemundo earned 14.5 million viewers.
The Fox News debate bested all broadcast and cable programming on Thursday night: CBS earned 10 million viewers for a repeat episode of “Big Bang Theory” and Fox’s “American Idol” took in 8.7 million viewers. CBS’s two other comedies were next: “Life in Pieces” scored 8.4 million and “Mom” had 8.0 million.
The first GOP debate back in August, also on Fox News, earned 24 million viewers and 7.9 million 25-54 viewers -- still the highest marks for all presidential debates, Republican or Democrat, for the 2016 race. CNN, in the second GOP debate, scored the second best results: 22.9 million and 6.9 million 25-54 viewers.
The 11 GOP debates have an average 15.8 million viewers, with three debates airing on Fox News; three on CNN; two on Fox Business News; one on CBS; one on ABC; one on CNBC; and one on Telemundo (shared with CNN in February).
The three cable TV news networks for GOP debate coverage -- Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC -- totaled $6.7 million in national TV advertising for early fringe, prime time, and late-fringe dayparts, according to iSpot.tv.