With a clear lack of small-screen star power at the podium, no one expected Tuesday’s CNN Democratic presidential candidate debate to match the ratings of the GOP forum — and in the end, it wasn’t close.
Last night’s left-leaning political jousting nabbed 15.3 million total viewers — an impressive total, considering the previous best for a Democratic presidential primary debate on cable news was CNN’s 2008 Los Angeles debate, which earned 8.3 million viewers. On broadcast, the highest rated was ABC’s 2008 Philadelphia Democratic debate, averaging 10.7 million viewers.
The Republican CNN version this year — a rematch — hauled in a whopping 22.9 million viewers on Sept. 16, thanks to the sideshow-esque main attraction of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. That huge total was actually down from the first 2015 GOP debate, which scored 24 million viewers in early August on Fox News Channel. There too, it was the circus act of Trump that likely drew record viewers.
In the 25-54 demo, Tuesday’s primetime offering averaged 4.8 million viewers — the highest ever for a Democratic debate. It was the sixth highest non-sports cable telecast on record, per CNN.
The debate was live-streamed on 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., usage peaked at 980,000 concurrent streams, topping the 921,000 peak concurrent streams CNN saw of its GOP debate at Reagan Library. In addition, CNN’s Democratic debate day earned 4.3 million total live streams and more than 13 million total video starts.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were the main draws last night in the far less-crowded liberal landscape. Anderson Cooper moderated the Tuesday TV event, which featured the five top democratic contenders for the 2016 election.