The MSNBC-Washington Post Debate Drew 6.5 Million Total TV Viewers, Making it the Lowest-Rated of the 2020 Cycle to-Date

By A.J. Katz 

The last two debates have been the lowest-rated of the 2020 Democratic primary cycle, capped off by last night’s debate, which was the lowest-rated one so far.

Originating from Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, and co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, the 5th Democratic primary debate of the 2020 cycle delivered 6.51 million total TV viewers and 1.67 million adults 25-54 from 9 – 11:20 p.m. ET, according to early data from Nielsen. Those numbers should increase a bit when final live-plus-same-day data is released by Nielsen later today.

And these figures don’t include streaming.


Having 6.5 million viewers tune into your broadcast is never anything to sneeze at, but it’s still far fewer than what previous debates hauled in.

Last night’s 2-hour and 20-minute event was moderated by a quartet of women: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ Kristen Welker and The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker. The moderators received mostly positive reviews for their performance.

Why the low ratings? Perhaps 11 hours of impeachment coverage wore politics junkies out. Perhaps people are becoming flat out tired of these debates. Could be a combination of both.

The most recent debate was hosted by  CNN (Oct. 15), and had been the least-watched of the 2020 cycle. That debate delivered 8.55 million total TV viewers and 2.43 million adults 25-54 from 8 – 11 p.m. ET.

The debate included Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker (NJ); Mayor Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, IN); former HUD Secretary Julián Castro; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI); Sen. Kamala Harris (CA); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN); former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX);  Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT); businessman Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The most-watched debate of the 2020 cycle to-date was day No. 2 of NBCU’s two-night debate in June. That debate, which was part of the first of this cycle, included viewership from NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, and it delivered a combined 18.1 million total TV viewers, 5.3 million of whom were adults 25-54.

PBS and Politico will co-host the next Democratic primary debate on Dec. 19 from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Additionally, CNN announced today that it will air the debate live on multiple platforms, joining local PBS stations in bringing the final debate of 2019 to viewers in the U.S. and abroad.