Opinion: CNN/Tea Party GOP debate ratings don’t get better over time


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Monday’s GOP presidential debate faced stiff competition from the season debut of ‘Monday Night Football’ on ESPN. It’s possible that people put the debate on the DVR and checked into it later ... or not.

On Tuesday, CNN -- which partnered with the Tea Party Express for the Sept. 12 debate, in Tampa, Fla. -- released the Nielsen Fast National Data (quick, preliminary numbers) for the 5-7 p.m. Pacific time slot, showing it on top of the cable-news ratings race for the night, with 3.6 million total viewers. That included 1.1 million in the advertiser-approved Adults 24-54 demographic.


CNN topped its own numbers for its GOP debate in New Hampshire in June. It fell behind those for Fox News’ Aug. 11 debate in Iowa, which got 5.1 million viewers, and 1.4 in the target demo. It also lagged behind the GOP debate last week on MSNBC -- from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley -- which got 5.4 million viewers, with 1.7 million in the demo.

Today, we got the final numbers from CNN, and they didn’t budge much: 3.163 million total viewers, and 1.132 million in the demographic.

Interestingly, there is much less daylight among CNN’s most recent demographic numbers and those for the last two debates than there is in numbers of total viewers. That means that either far more older or younger viewers -- or large numbers of both -- bailed on Monday night.

That could be a testament to the major ratings draw of the NFL, which offered back-to-back games on Monday. The New England Patriots’ 38-24 road victory over the Miami Dolphins, which began at 4 p.m. Pacific, attracted roughly 14.6 million viewers, giving it the fourth-largest audience for any program on cable television for the year 2011.

The second game -- in which the Denver Broncos lost at home to the Oakland Raiders, 23-20 -- got 11.1 million viewers. It started about 7:15 p.m. Pacific time.

And, there was likely a big curiosity factor last week for the first debate appearance of Rick Perry. He’s the governor of Texas, famous for its devotion to high school football (after all, the book ‘Friday Night Lights’ became both a movie and an NBC TV series). There’s no reason to expect Texans don’t love the pros just as much (and are already pretty familiar with Perry’s record, since he’s been the state’s chief executive for a decade).


Or it could mean that there are roughly 1-ish million people between the ages of 25 and 54 that will tune in for just about every GOP debate.

No doubt the Republican National Committee would like to know who they are, where they live and whether they’ve maxed out their legally permissible donations.

Fox News, Google and the Republican Party of Florida sponsor the next debate, taking place Sept. 22 in Orlando, Fla.

The moderator is FNC anchor Bret Baier. Also on the panel are ‘Fox News Sunday’ host Chris Wallace -- who has participated in the previous FNC debates this year -- and daytime anchor Megyn Kelly, making her debate debut.

Kelly, who practiced law before eventually turning to full-time broadcast journalism, returned recently from maternity leave after giving birth to her second child.

Viewers can submit text and video questions for the debate via Google’s ‘Fox News/Google Debate’ page, which also allows users to give thumbs-up/down to questions.


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-- Kate O’Hare

Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment news site Zap2it. Also follow O’Hare on Twitter @KateOH.

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