Third GOP debate draws fewer than 7 million viewers on NBC

Fewer than 7 million people watched Wednesday night’s third Republican presidential primary debate on television, the lowest of the debates so far this cycle.

NBC News’s broadcast of the third GOP debate, which aired in prime time from 8-10 p.m., delivered 6.8 million viewers on linear television, including 1.3 million in the advertiser-coveted 25-54 age demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Those figures do not include viewers who watched the event on streaming platforms or saw clips or highlights from the debate on social media and elsewhere.

NBC News celebrated the audience it received for the event on streaming, saying Thursday it totaled 7.5 million viewers across linear television, digital and streaming combined, noting it had the largest prime-time audience event ever on “NBC News NOW,” and also notched the streamer’s highest peak audience ever, though it did not provide specific figures for streaming.

Wednesday night’s audience is down from the 9 million that watched the second GOP presidential primary debate last month on Fox Business Network, and the 12.8 million who watched the first event on Fox News in August.

All three of the first presidential primary debates have been lacking a major audience driver in former President Trump, the front-runner for the party’s nomination, who has skipped the first three debates because of his large lead in most national polls.

Wednesday’s debate featured a winnowed field of candidates sparring with one another and pitching voters on their vision for the country and why they are the best alternative to Trump.

Moderators Lester Holt, Kristen Welker and Hugh Hewitt earned widespread praise for their sharp line of questioning, restraint after being attacked directly by at least one of the candidates and control of the sometimes fiery back-and-forth.

The fourth presidential primary debate will take place on Dec. 6 in Alabama and will be hosted by cable news channel NewsNation.

Updated: 6:45 p.m.

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