TV Ratings: FOX News' GOP debate surges to 2016 high

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

Donald Trump Put in the Hot Seat as GOP Debate Gets Dirty

Donald Trump returned to the Fox News Channel stage on Thursday night, appearing at the Republican Party's 11th (that's right, 11th) debate of this presidential campaign. And it easily ranks as the highest-rated in nearly three months.

READ MORE: Candidate to skip 1st FOX News Dem Town Hall

The two-hour event averaged 16.9 million viewers for the cable news network, 5.5 million of them adults 25-54. The last debate to approach those numbers was on Dec. 15, when the playing field of candidates was much more crowded. Compared to the most recent GOP debate, Thursday marked an audience spike of nearly 2.5 million.

See more from Thursday night's debate:

23 PHOTOS
GOP Debate
See Gallery
TV Ratings: FOX News' GOP debate surges to 2016 high
Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and businessman Donald Trump argue during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump walks across the stage during a break in the Republican Presidential Debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016. / AFP / Geoff Robins (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio responds to a question during the Republican Presidential Debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016. / AFP / Geoff Robins (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates, businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argue a point during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Republican presidential candidates, businessman Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argue a point during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R) responds to a question as Donald Trump listens during the Republican Presidential Debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016. / AFP / Geoff Robins (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich , right, laughs with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and businessman Donald Trump argue during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, right, speaks as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., listens during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, second from left, gestures as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich watch him a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich appear during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
US Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump arrives on stage for the Republican Presidential Debate in Detroit on March 3, 2016. / AFP / Geoff Robins (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., gestures during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich take the stage before a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich take the stage before a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
DETROIT, MI - MARCH 03: Republican presidential candidates (Lto R) Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) participate in a debate sponsored by Fox News on March 3, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Voters in Michigan will go to the polls March 8 for the State's primary. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump, second from left, speaks as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich listen during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
DETROIT, MI - MARCH 03: Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich participates in a debate sponsored by Fox News at the Fox Theatre on March 3, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Voters in Michigan will go to the polls March 8 for the State's primary. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich wait before a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Overnight returns gave the FNC debate a 11.5 rating among Nielsen's metered market households. That was up more than 15 percent from the 9.9 rating that the last GOP debate grossed between CNN and Telemundo. All told, that debate averaged 14.5 million viewers, which made it the most-watched of the year at the time. (On CNN alone, the debate pulled a 9.0 in households and 12.6 million viewers.)

Data curated by InsideGov

Thursday marked the first time Trump and FNC host and debate moderator Megyn Kelly shared screen time since butting heads at the first GOP debate on Aug. 6. His public issues with theKelly File host, stemming from her pushing him on his past remarks about women, was one of the reasons cited for his skipping the last Fox debate in January.

FNC still holds the record for the most-watched debate, the first, which raked in a record 24 million viewers.

Complete ratings for the March 3 debate, including total viewers and the number of adults 25-54, will arrive later on Friday. See below for a complete rundown of debate audiences to date.

RNC

Aug. 6 -- 24 million (FNC)
Sept. 16 -- 23 million (CNN)
Oct. 28 -- 14 million (CNBC)
Nov. 10 -- 13.5 million (FBN)
Dec. 15 -- 18.2 million (CNN)
Jan. 14 -- 11.1 million (FBN)
Jan. 28 -- 12.5 million (FNC)
Feb. 6 -- 13.2 million (ABC)
Feb. 13 -- 13.5 million (CBS)
Feb. 25 -- 14.5 million (CNN/Telemundo)

DNC

Oct. 13 -- 15.8 million (CNN)
Nov. 14 -- 8.6 million (CBS)
Dec. 19 -- 8 million (ABC)
Jan. 17 -- 10.2 million (NBC)
Feb. 4 -- 4.5 million (MSNBC)
Feb. 11 -- 8.0 million (PBS/CNN)

Watch more coverage below:

'Big Don' and 'Little Marco' Kind of Derailed the Fox News Debate

Read Full Story

People are Reading