Tuesday’s Democratic debate on CNN surpassed ratings expectations as Nielsen announced that 15.8 million Americans tuned in to watch the five presidential candidates. Many analysts had been expecting roughly 10 million viewers. This is the highest-rated Democratic debate, breaking the previous record of 10.69 million on ABC in January of 2008. The debate was scheduled to run from 8:30 to 11, although CNN’s intros, commercial breaks, and the candidates’ introductory statements led to the first question being asked at 9:00 PM.
In the 25-54 demo which is the most sought after by advertisers, brought in an average of 5 million viewers.
The debate was also streamed online and on CNN International. The stream peaked at 980,000 viewers, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter. 921,000 was the peak for the Republican debate stream.
The ratings for the Democratic debate were lower than those of the Republican debates. The Republican debate on Fox News had 24 million viewers while the Republican debate on CNN had 22 million viewers. Media analysts attributed a good portion of the viewership of the Republican debates to Donald Trump, as the politically uninterested and those of various affiliations would be interested in seeing him debate. While the Democratic debate had Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, there were also three candidates who are largely unknown to the country. Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb all hover around zero and asterisk. CNN’s intro featured Sanders and Clinton while relegating the other three to a general description of “Political veterans.”