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The GOP debates vs. Trump's interview? Which watch most?

About 12,8 million viewers watched the debate and drum roll...190 people viewed Trump on X(formerly Twitter which aired in the same time slot). I suppose the Twitter views aren't quite as impressive as folks could have viewed multiple times...haha.


The Trump brand is still alive and well and out drawing the alsorans who can't get any traction. In fact, the dude who was widely hailed as the debate's best performer (Ramaswamy) recently referred to Donald as the "21st Century's great president". He must be a student of history.


So all you legal eagles who think that a few indictments are going to derail that kind of momentum, all I can say is good luck. If Biden has a major medical stumble, were going to substitute a narcissistic megalomaniac for a memory care patient in the Oval Office.


Tucker Carlson’s Trump Interview Starts Tough Fight to Take on Fox and Cable News

Trump interview on Elon Musk’s X drew nearly 190 million view ‘impressions’; building a sustainable business will be a different challenge

By Amol Sharma and Isabella Simonetti, WSJ

Updated Aug. 24, 2023 5:20 pm ET


Tucker Carlson’s interview of Donald Trump that streamed on X on Wednesday night wasn’t just an attempt by the former president to upstage eight Republican rivals who were debating on Fox News.


It was a glaring display of the fissures in right-wing media, and the opening salvo in a fight that will test whether social-media platforms can mount a serious challenge to TV news.


Carlson and Trump, who each have grievances about Fox News, used the platform owned by Elon Musk—another convention-bucking personality—to give the cable network unprecedented competition in a big moment.

Trump Snubs GOP Debate, Joins Tucker Carlson for Interview on X


Former President Donald Trump skipped the first GOP debate on Wednesday. Instead, he discussed a range of topics, including his legal troubles, GOP rivals, and Joe Biden, with Tucker Carlson in a pretaped interview posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.


Carlson’s interview, which aired during the GOP debate on Fox News, had 236 million total view “impressions” by Wednesday afternoon. That made it Carlson’s highest tally on X, formerly known as Twitter, since his acrimonious exit from Fox in April. Two key measures of engagement, likes and reposts, were about 690,000 and about 180,000, respectively.


Nielsen on Thursday said about 12.8 million watched the Republican primary debate on Fox News and Fox Business. That was slightly better than another Fox News Republican primary debate that Trump also had skipped during the 2016 cycle, which had drawn more than 12 million viewers.


Adequately comparing Carlson’s figures to Fox News’s viewership is nearly impossible. On X, impressions account for the total number of times a post was seen, which can include multiple views by a single user, according to X’s website. TV ratings generally are the average number of viewers who tuned in to a telecast at any given time.


Mark Lukasiewicz, a former NBC News executive who oversaw specials and produced 10 presidential debates and forums between 2004 and 2016, called it an “apples and oranges” comparison and noted that each side would find a way to claim success in attracting viewers.


“I don’t believe one-time stunts like the Trump/Carlson ‘interview’ are a game-changer for Fox News,” said Lukasiewicz, who is now dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University. “A Carlson-backed streaming network, on the other hand, could become that kind of threat,” he said.


Carlson and former White House adviser Neil Patel are working on plans to turn his social-media act into a broader business, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.


Fox News has seen its prime-time ratings decline since Carlson’s departure and faces some competition from right-wing rivals like Newsmax, though it remains the top-rated cable news channel. The network has said its prime-time ratings have somewhat rebounded since it introduced a new prime-time lineup in mid-July.


Like all cable networks, Fox faces the long-term threats of aging viewers and people cutting the cable-TV cord. But as of now the cable-TV model is still very lucrative, with monthly cable-bill fees and ad dollars boosting balance sheets.


Threatening the cable-TV news fortress is one thing. Building a rival business “is a steep mountain to climb,” Lukasiewicz said. “I don’t think television is going to be ceding its place of pre-eminence in political media anytime soon.”


Carlson and Patel are trying to build a subscription-driven business, with X as one likely partner. The duo believes Musk could have even more success by venturing beyond right-wing media and bringing in high-profile left-wing personalities to do news, people close to them said.


In his interview with Carlson, which was pretaped last week, Trump addressed his absence at the debate in Milwaukee, saying he didn’t see a reason to do battle with his rivals while leading in the polls by a wide margin.


He also referenced tensions with Fox, calling it “a network that isn’t particularly friendly to me,” and said it was similar to how he felt in the 2016 campaign. “I had to fight them all the way, and they became very friendly after I won.”


Trump also spoke about the decline of television as a medium and said, “We’ll get better ratings using this crazy forum that you’re using than probably the debate—our competition.”


Jonathan Alter, a veteran journalist who has covered politics and media and is the author of a biography on Jimmy Carter, said it would be hard for other politicians or news personalities to generate the kind of buzz and audience as Trump’s interview with Carlson, meaning Wednesday night could be more of a one-off event than a blueprint for others to follow in future debates.


“It’s Trump and only Trump,” he said. While many viewers were drawn to X on Wednesday, he said, “it doesn’t mean that all these people are suddenly going to be Tucker Carlson viewers—they love Trump and Trump is in his own category.”


There are risks to trying something new. In May, technical issues delayed the launch of Republican Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign on Musk’s platform. Trump’s interview sidestepped such issues because it was pretaped, not livestreamed.


Cable news, writ large, has shown its vulnerability over the years, said Jonathan Klein, the former president of CNN U.S. and the chief executive of streaming platform HANG. At the same time, Carlson’s media company and show on X would have to overcome a number of business hurdles to compete with cable news.


“He would have to demonstrate sustainable revenue streams and sustainable audience appeal,” Klein said. “You’re not gonna be booking Donald Trump every night of the week.”


Carlson launched a free show on X shortly after Fox News ousted him in April, following Fox’s agreement to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems. He had occupied the 8 p.m. slot since 2017 and averaged more than three million viewers a night.


His interview with Trump was his 19th episode on X. His program on X has featured monologues similar to those he did on his Fox show, as well as interviews with newsmakers including Vivek Ramaswamy and Ice Cube.


Aside from his interview with Trump, Carlson’s largest audience was his first episode, which drew 121.1 million X impressions.


Write to Amol Sharma at Amol.Sharma@wsj.com and Isabella Simonetti at isabella.simonetti@wsj.com


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