Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. DeSantis Debate With California Gov. Newsom Drives Ratings Spike For Fox News

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis not only won last week’s debate against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, he also handed Fox News a major ratings victory.

Fox News announced on Tuesday that the “Great Red vs. Blue State Debate,” as the DeSantis-Newsom affair was dubbed, “powered” the right-leaning network to the top of the cable news ratings heap for the week of Nov. 27 to Dec. 3.

Sean Hannity, a primetime host, moderated the debate, which Fox News hailed as “the most-watched non-sports broadcast of the week.”

Indeed it was. 

The bicker-match between the governors drew 4.75 million viewers during the live 9 p.m. broadcast. That included 742,000 viewers within the coveted 25-54 age demographic.

Read: California Gov. Newsom’s Wife Ends Debate With Florida Gov. DeSantis During Clobbering “We’re Done”

According to Fox News, that translates to 73% of the entire cable news audience.

The debate attracted another 700,000 viewers when it was rebroadcast at midnight.

According to Forbes magazine, the only program that attracted more cable TV viewers for that week was “Monday Night Football,” whose ESPN audience totaled 7.6 million.

Forbes’ report also showed how much the debate mattered to Fox News.

The week prior to the debate, the longtime cable TV news behemoth finished third in the primetime ratings, trailing ESPN and the Hallmark Channel.

The Hallmark Channel pulled in an average of 1.53 million viewers between 8 and 11 p.m., compared to Fox News’ 1.29 million viewers.

To put the DeSantis-Newsom audience in further context, Fox News reported that its afternoon show “The Five” was the top cable news broadcast of the week. It averaged 2.77 million weekly viewers, or 2 million less than the debate.

Read: Florida Gov. DeSantis Gets Last Laugh As South Carolina Yanks Disney From Investment Portfolio

Hannity was also a big winner personally, getting a much-needed ratings boost.

Fox noted in its press release, “The debate made for the highest-rated telecast ‘Hannity’ has seen in 2023.”

Fox reported that Hannity’s audience for last week averaged 2.7 million viewers, which included that hefty spike from the Nov. 30 debate.

However, according to the website USTVDB.com, Hannity has suffered since Fox fired former anchor Tucker Carlson in April. 

For most of the summer, Hannity’s ratings hovered between 1.5 million and 2 million, or about one-third to one-half what his audience was before Carlson was axed.

His viewership has improved somewhat since around Oct. 1, USTVDB shows, posting a weekly average of between 2 million and 2.5 million watchers.

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