Democratic Debate Most-Watched Program in the History of MSNBC

By Chris Ariens 

In addition to being the third-most watched debate of this election cycle, last night’s Democratic showdown in Cleveland was MSNBC’s most-watched program in the 11-year history of the network. In a head-to-head 9pmET match-up, the debate was second only to FOX’s American Idol. It ranked as the fourth most-watched program in Total Viewers on all of TV last night.

“I’m proud that millions of viewers were able to experience the most anticipated debate of the season on MSNBC,” said NBC SVP Phil Griffin in a press release.

The numbers for the debate, which was moderated by Brian Williams, joined by Tim Russert, more than doubled MSNBC’s previous Total Viewer high of 3.7 million who watched on March 19, 2003, the night the Iraq war began.


Click continued to read the press release…


7.8 Million Viewers Watch MSNBC’s Debate Between Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama on the Eve of the Ohio and Texas Primaries

MSNBC’s Debate Coverage Second Only to “Idol”-Boosted Fox in Total Viewers

NEW YORK — Feb. 27, 2008 — MSNBC’s telecast of last night’s Democratic candidates debate drew 7.8 million viewers (9-10:36 p.m. ET), becoming the most watched broadcast in the eleven year history of the network, according to Nielsen Media Research. The debate, between Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, was moderated by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, joined by “Meet the Press” moderator and NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert. It is the third most watched debate this season and the second most watched on cable.

“Voters are incredibly engaged and passionate about the presidential election; it’s one of the most exciting in history. I’m proud that millions of viewers were able to experience the most anticipated debate of the season on MSNBC,” said Phil Griffin, Senior Vice President, NBC News and executive in charge of MSNBC. “This is an exciting time for MSNBC, and numbers like these show that our work in establishing the network as the place for politics over the past two years has paid off.”

The debate was the #4 program of the night, broadcast or cable, in total viewers and ranked second only to “American Idol”/”Back to You” on Fox in its time period. The debate was also the #1 cable program of the night among total viewers and Adults 25-54. Last night’s debate averaged 3.24 million Adults 25-54, also a record for the network. Last night’s debate shatters MSNBC’s previous total viewer high, 3.7 million viewers (8-11 p.m. on March 19, 2003, the beginning of the Iraq war).

WKYC simulcast the debate, along with NBC affiliates WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, WCMH-TV in Columbus, WNWO-TV in Toledo, WDTN-TV in Dayton, WLIO-TV in Lima, WTOV-TV in Steubenville, WFMJ-TV in Youngstown, and WHIZ-TV in Zanesville. The audiences for the local stations are included in MSNBC’s national rating.

WKYC’s broadcast of the debate in Cleveland drew a 26 metered market rating and 35 share, outrating “American Idol” by 44 percent in the market (18/24). The four metered market stations (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton) averaged a 19.7 metered market rating and 27 share.

The debate also drew more than half a million streams on

Phil Griffin is the Senior Vice President, NBC News and executive in charge of MSNBC. Phil Alongi is Executive Producer, NBC News Specials. Chuck Todd is Political Director, NBC News; Cliff Kappler is Senior Producer, NBC News Specials.

Built on the worldwide resources of NBC News, MSNBC defines news for the next generation with world-class reporting and a full schedule of live news coverage, political analysis and award-winning documentary programming — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MSNBC’s home on the Internet is delivers a fuller spectrum of news. Drawing on its award-winning original journalism, NBC News heritage, trusted sources and Microsoft’s advanced technologies, the site presents compelling, diverse and visually-engaging stories on the consumer’s platform of choice. Nielsen Online reports more than 35 million unique visitors for January 2008, making the number one TV news site, ahead of ABC, CBS, and Fox News combined.

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