As we predicted yesterday afternoon, CNN was able to build on its opening night audience, delivering 10.72 million total viewers and 3.03 million among adults 25-54 on night No. 2 of the network’s first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 election cycle. CNN en Español delivered 39,000 total viewers and 16,000 A25-54 viewers. That’s roughly 10.76 million total viewers and 3.05 million A25-54 viewers watching last night’s debate across CNN U.S. and CNN en Español networks.
Last night’s debate, which got rather intense at times, was +24% in total viewers and +21% in the key A25-54 demo from Tuesday’s debate. The opening night delivered CNN U.S. roughly 8.7 million total viewers and 2.53 million demo viewers.
How does that compare with other debates? CNN’s 10.7 million represents CNN’s second-largest Democratic primary debate audience ever, overtaking Tuesday night’s debate, which had been second. The network’s October 2015 Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas delivered a network-record 15.8 million total viewers. However, Fall programming traditionally attracts more viewers than summer programming, so one should take that into account.
Then, there’s the NBC News debate, the first of the 2020 cycle. The second night of that two-night debate (June 27) delivered a Democratic primary debate-record 18.1 million total viewers. That debate aired across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo (and various digital platforms). 10.6 million of those 18.1 million TV viewers watched on NBC, while 6.7 million watched on MSNBC. 839,000 viewers watched on Telemundo.
But no one will probably ever be able to touch that first Fox News Republican primary debate of the 2016 election cycle. The Aug. 6, 2015 debate delivered a whopping 24 million total viewers, making it the most-watched non-sports basic cable telecast since Nielsen started measuring audiences in the mid-’80s. The inclusion of then-celebrity businessman Donald Trump, and the fact the debate only featured the top 10 Republican candidates were significant reasons for their huge numbers.
How did CNN digital perform last night?
CNN digital’s live stream for the second night saw 3.1 million live starts, making it the second highest CNN Democratic primary debate day ever, behind Las Vegas in October 2015 (the Debate streamed exclusively on CNN owned platforms CNN.com, Edition.CNN.com, CNNgo OTT apps and mobile apps for iOS and Android.
It was also the second highest CNN Democratic primary debate day ever for concurrent live streams, peaking at 9:35 pm with 796,000 digital viewers – an increase of 12% from Tuesday.
Viewers spent an average of 93 minutes watching the debate digitally, placing it among the top debate days ever for watch time. Also, CNN digital had 576,000 people live streaming the average minute of the debate.