MSNBC’s Democratic primary debate pitting Bernie Sanders versus Hillary Clinton delivered the lowest ratings for a debate this election cycle with only 4.5 million total viewers and 1.2 million among the key 25-54 demo.
These numbers are significantly lower than previous debates, including sister network NBC’s recent face-off, which averaged 10 million viewers. Last August’s GOP debate on Fox News is the most-watched non-sports cable event of all time with 24 million viewers; the most-watched Democratic debate of this cycle was back on Oct. 13 when 15.8 million watched on CNN.
An MSNBC insider with knowledge of the situation says the low ratings were expected given the last-minute scheduling of the debate. The insider said the network couldn’t even run on-air promos until the night before, and it was obvious that the debate wouldn’t touch the ratings of the broadcast debates that have been on the DNC schedule for months.
The insider also claims MSNBC didn’t stage this debate for ratings, but rather to give New Hampshire voters the post-Iowa debate they asked for, as well as offer a first chance to see the two candidates square off one on one.
The debate was moderated by NBC News’ Chuck Todd and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.