If you’re wondering whether interest in the Democratic primary process has cooled off, check the Nielsen ratings and stop wondering.
Thursday night’s debate featuring ten presidential candidates averaged 14 million viewers across ABC and Univision. The debate ratings were head and shoulders above everything else on TV Thursday night.
The core of the debate started around 8:15 p.m. ET, right after the candidates delivered opening statements. About 12.9 million viewers were tuned in on ABC and another 1.1 million on Univision, which presented the debate in Spanish.
The Nielsen ratings only account for viewership at home via traditional TV distribution. Out of home and streaming viewership is measured separately.
ABC live-streamed the event on a variety of platforms, including YouTube and Twitter.
With 14 million people watching on TV, the debate ranked behind the record-setting NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo debate in June, but ahead of most other Democratic primary debates in TV history.
For comparison’s sake, the third Democratic debate of the 2016 cycle, which also took place on ABC, averaged 8 million total viewers. But it was held on a Saturday night, traditionally a low-rated night for TV viewing, and there is more interest in the primary this time around.
This cycle’s first round of debates, spread across three of NBC’s networks, attracted 15.3 million viewers on night one and 18 million on night two.
Night one of CNN’s debate in July averaged 8.7 million and night two averaged 10.7 million viewers.
So the ABC-Univision debate landed in the middle of the two, showing sustained interest in the candidates and their plans.
ABC’s status as a broadcast network, versus cable, and the involvement of Univision surely helped lift Thursday’s total number. So did the fact that Thursday was the first time when all ten top-polling candidates debated on stage together.
Judging from social media commentary, the shift from a two-night to one-night debate was a relief to many viewers, though political junkies said they wished for more time for questioning.