×

Democratic Debate on CNN Draws Record 15.3 Million Viewers

Donald Trump may have been the driving factor in record ratings numbers for the first two Republican primary debates of this election cycle, but he appears to have had a halo effect on the Democrats’ first gathering as well.

In preliminary estimates from Nielsen, Tuesday’s debate on CNN drew a big 15.3 million viewers — the largest-ever crowd for a Democratic debate and the sixth largest non-sports cable audience on record. Prior to last night, the highest-rated Democratic presidential primary debate on cable was CNN’s January 2008 Los Angeles debate, which averaged 8.3 million viewers. And overall, the highest-rated was ABC’s 2008 Philadelphia debate, which drew 10.7 million viewers in April of that year.

In the key news demo of adults 25-54, Tuesday night’s debate averaged 4.8 million viewers — also a record for a Democratic debate.

On the record ratings for the debate, Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders told Variety: “Millions of Americans understand that aside from calling each other names & throwing tantrums the Republicans really don’t have anything significant to say about the real crises facing the American middle class.”

See More: Democratic Debate: 5 Most Memorable Moments as Clinton and Sanders Face Off

CNN live-streamed the debate to CNN.com, its mobile apps and Apple TV, setting an all-time record for peak concurrent streams of a live news event. At 10:20 p.m. ET, usage peaked at 980,000 concurrent streams, topping the 921,000 peak concurrent streams CNN saw of its GOP debate at Reagan Library last month. By comparison, it’s estimates that NBC pulled in 1.3 million peak concurrent streams at the Super Bowl earlier this year.

The first two Republican primary debates of this cycle drew record ratings, as 24 million tuned in to Fox News for its coverage of the Cleveland debate on Aug. 6, followed by 23.06 million for CNN’s debate from Simi Valley on Sept. 16. These debates averaged about 7.5 million adults 25-54.

The Democratic debate was easily Tuesday night’s most popular series or special on Twitter, according to Nielsen Social. Roughly 8.9 million people in the U.S. saw one or more of 2.8 million tweets sent about the debate, with the biggest moment coming at 9:50 p.m. ET, when 33,500 tweets were sent following Bernie Sanders’ comment about Hilary Clinton’s emails.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • BritBox Is 'Not a Rival to

    BritBox 'Not a Rival to Netflix and Amazon' but Something Different, ITV Exec Says

    BritBox, ITV and the BBC’s joint “best of British” streaming service, is not being positioned as a rival to Netflix and Amazon but offers something those two streaming giants don’t, ITV director of television Kevin Lygo said. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Friday, Lygo said BritBox would be a “different thing” that allowed [...]

  • Stefano Sollima for Web Story

    'ZeroZeroZero' Creator on Making an Old Story New and How Andrea Riseborough Got Hurt (EXCLUSIVE)

    Stefano Sollima, the Italian director known in Hollywood for “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” and TV show “Gomorrah,” is the main creative force behind cocaine-trafficking series “ZeroZeroZero,” which will world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5. Festival chief Alberto Barbera has praised it as blowing “Narcos” out of the water. Sollima directed [...]

  • Ballers HBO

    'Ballers' to End After Season 5 on HBO

    “Ballers” is coming to an end after five seasons on HBO. Star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson confirmed the news via an emotional Instagram video. “My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for rocking with us every season. You made us HBO’s highest rated comedy for years and most importantly, you helped [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • Disney Villains Series 'Book of Enchantment'

    'Book of Enchantment' Series Based on Iconic Disney Villains Shelved at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has decided to not move forward with “Book of Enchantment,” a series based on some of Disney’s most iconic villains, Variety has learned from sources. The news comes the day before Disney is set to unveil its streaming service at the biannual D23 convention in Anaheim. The prospective project was based on the [...]

  • ITV STUDIOS PRESENTS VERAFILM 2Pictured: BRENDA

    Brenda Blethyn to Star in New ITV Sitcom 'Kate and Kolo'

    Oscar-nominated Brenda Blethyn is set to star in the new sitcom “Kate and Kolo” for ITV, the U.K. broadcaster announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Blethyn takes on the title role of Kate in the comedy alongside theater and film actor Jimmy Akingbola as Kolo. Blethyn is a popular star with ITV audiences after having [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content