The top-rated cable news network since 2002, Fox News is seeking to position itself against powerhouses like USA and ESPN, according to Paul Rittenberg, the network's head of ad sales. Pictured: Fox News hosts Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier. Fox News

For the first time ever, Fox News was the No. 1 network across all cable prime time for an entire quarter, topping ESPN, USA and TNT and hitting an average of nearly 2 million total viewers, according to Nielsen. The record-setting Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6 pulled in 24 million viewers, while the dramatic fallout among Donald Trump, host Megyn Kelly and Fox boss Roger Ailes kept the channel on top for the rest of the quarter, up 10 percent in total viewers from the same time last year.

The debate qualified as the highest-rated non-sports cable telecast of all time, owing largely to the fireworks set off by the GOP front-runner. The bickering afterward, in which Trump attacked Kelly, led to a showdown between the former "Apprentice" star and Ailes (which has yet to be resolved). All the while, Fox's ratings rode high.

The network also pulled in veiwers for big stories beside Trump, including the killing of two WDBJ journalists in Roanoke, Virginia, and the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

There may have been a good cop-bad cop element to Fox's Trumpmania: Kelly, one of Trump's favorite targets, and fellow host Sean Hannity, one of his gentlest interviewers, both delivered their highest-rated quarters since the launch of the current prime-time lineup in October 2013.

The channel ranked No. 1 in prime-time total viewers the week of the debate, averaging 2.34 million viewers per night and 524,000 in the key 25-to-54-year-old demo, besting TNT, USA, HGTV and TBS, a 34 percent increase over the same time last year.

The same can't be said for CNN, which almost matched Fox's 24 million debate number with its own showing of 23 million during the second GOP debate this month. Despite the debate-night-bump, CNN's viewership dropped 97 percent during the same 8-11 p.m. time slot the day after and 21 percent further the day after that, according to Nielsen.

Once things calmed down in the following days, CNN fell to third place in cable news, behind Fox and MSNBC in total viewers with only 764,000 overall.