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FOX News sees highest-rated VP debate in TV history

October 9, 2020

FOX News Channel’s (FNC) coverage of the debate between incumbent Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris set a record for the highest-rated US vice presidential debate in the country’s cable news history, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

FNC’s coverage averaged 11,315,000 in total viewers and 2,905,000 in A25-54, making it the most-watched debate coverage in all of television in total viewers, beating ABC, NBC, CBS and all cable news networks. Co-anchored by FNC’s Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the entirety of FNC’s special presentation of the vice presidential candidates first standoff garnered 10,884,000 viewers and 2,785,000 in the 25-54 demo.

During the debate coverage, FNC’s telecast was up double-digits in both categories versus the vice presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle (up 85 per cent in P2+ and up 90 per cent in 25-54 demo). Presented live from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, FNC’s coverage of the 2020 vice presidential debate was the top-rated telecast in all of television on the night and a top 20 most-watched telecast in network history.

Prior to FNC’s debate coverage, Tucker Carlson Tonight topped ABC’s pre-debate coverage and its time slot, averaging 6,228,000 in total viewers and 1,258,000 in A25-54. At 11PM/ET, FNC’s post-debate coverage kicked off with a special edition of Hannity, delivering 5.1 million viewers and 1.3 million in 25-54, topping the cable news timeslot in total viewers. The network’s post-debate special edition of The Ingraham Angle also topped its competition with 3,040,000 in total viewers.

FOX News Digital experienced a record night of vice presidential debate engagement across all key performance indicators, notching triple digit increases in every category. Compared to the vice presidential debate in 2016, unique devices increased by 143 per cent, video starts saw a 145 per cent rise, and page views were up 111 per cent, according to Adobe Analytics and Apple News. Time spent in minutes was up 114 per cent, more than double the vice presidential debate last cycle.

Across all FOX News Digital properties, as well as on social media (Facebook and YouTube), there were 3.5 million total video streams of the debate, according to Adobe Analytics, Facebook, and YouTube. Additionally, time spent on the FOX News livestream was up 48 per cent from the average 2020 weekday, with an 89 per cent increase among unique devices. On social media, FOX News remained number one in total debate-related social engagement among the news competitive set (Facebook and Instagram) and drove 2.7 million total debate-related interactions, which comprised about half of all the debate related social engagement, according to Socialbakers.

The debate itself was somewhat lacking in key talking points and, in the aftermath, the focus across social media networks was mainly devoted to a fly that landed on Pence’s head and, unbeknownst to him, sat there for around 2 minutes.

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