CNN Debate Sets Record for Democrats, Trails GOP's TV Audience

Who Won the Democratic Debate?
  • Network averaged 15 million total viewers: Nielsen data
  • Debate wins bigger online audience than CNN's GOP showdown

Tuesday night’s presidential debate on CNN was the highest-rated ever for Democrats, even while attracting a smaller TV audience than two Republican contests.

The debate averaged about 15 million total viewers, CNN said Wednesday, citing Nielsen Fast National ratings data. The Sept. 16 Republican debate on CNN drew about 23 million viewers, the most ever for an event aired by the network. An Aug. 6 Republican contest on Fox attracted even more, a record of 24 million.

Tuesday’s debate, moderated by Anderson Cooper at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino, marked the first sparring match between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Clinton also participated in the last record-setting Democratic debate, when she went head to head with President Barack Obama on ABC. That telecast averaged almost 11 million viewers.

Though Tuesday’s debate reached a smaller overall TV audience than last month’s Republican candidate showdown, which was pumped up by billionaire Donald Trump and his controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants and women, it set online records. As many as 980,000 people live-streamed the event on, CNN’s mobile apps and Apple TV, the network said. The GOP debate in September drew 921,000 online viewers, and the Super Bowl on NBC in February pulled an estimated 1.3 million, CNN said.

The Democratic debate probably attracted a bigger Internet audience because young people are more apt to lean Democrat and stream video content over the web, CNN, which is owned by Time Warner Inc. In terms of total viewership, almost 5 million people aged 25 to 54 tuned in Tuesday night, the highest ever for a Democratic debate.

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