If there is a clear winner out of last night’s Democratic Debate, it looks to be NBC, Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell. With 10.2 million viewers tuning in on Sunday night for the fourth onstage meet-up of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, the Comcast-owned net snagged the biggest viewership the Democrats have had on the Big 4 this campaign season.
Up 27% from the trio’s last debate on December 19 on ABC, the key Sunday prime 9-11 PM ET slot of last night was down 35% in total viewership from the Democrats’ first debate of October 13. That 9-10:49 PM ET debate pulled in 15.8 million viewers for CNN. CBS hosted the Democrats back on November 14, also a Saturday, and pulled in 8.55 million viewers. Fox has not hosted a Democratic debate yet. Last night’s faceoff also was down 8% for last week’s sixth GOP debate on Fox Business Network. The Everest of the 2016 presidential debates so far remains the 24 million viewers who tuned in to Fox News Channel for the first GOP debate in August.
When you add in online and MSNBC encore viewership, last night’s debate hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute in Charleston, SC, had a total audience of 12.5 million. NBC Nightly News anchor Holt handled the questions with NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Mitchell and more from the YouTube crowd.
Sunday’s shindig will be the last time Clinton, Sanders and long shot O’Malley spar before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary next month. By the next time they meet, actual votes will have been cast, and the race — for both the Dems and the Donald Trump-dominated GOP — could be taking on a whole new hue.