Democratic Debate Night 1 Gets 15.3M Viewers Across NBC, MSNBC & Telemundo; 9M Watch Via Streaming – Update

Night 1 of NBC's 2-part 20 candidate extravaganza proved a solid bet for the Comcast-owned net AP

UPDATED with total viewership numbers: Most of the contenders pulling in big poll numbers take the stage in Miami later today for Night 2 of the Democratic debates on NBC, but Night 1 has set a pretty high bar for Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and the rest to reach. That bar, however, is well below what both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump drew in the early stages of the 2016 Presidential election.

When NBC, MSNBC and Telemndo are all added up, Nielsen has the showdown last night pulling in 15.3 million viewers.

As we detailed earlier today and now have further confirmed, the total viewing numbers for last night’s warm-up debate of sorts are far behind the audience of 24 million that the first GOP debate pulled in in August 2015 on Fox News. Last night is also down 4.3% from what the five-0person first Democratic debate snagged in October 2015 on CNN.

We’ll see how things look with the ex-VP and the man who almost denied Clinton her nomination take the stage tonight.

In a look at the reality of small screen viewing in 2019, Night 1’s live stream saw more than 9 million viewers and 14 million video views across all platforms. Those services included the heft of,,, NBC News NOW on OTT devices, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

PREVIOUSLY, 8:03 AM: The first Democratic presidential hopefuls debate for the 2020 election season was effortlessly dominated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but NBC looks to be the real contender, at least in the ratings.

The debated snagged a 6.9/13 in metered market results on the Comcast-owned network, with the two-hour, 10-candidate hoopla scoring a very healthy 2.5/11 in the 18-49 demographic in the early numbers.

As a simultaneous comparison and an indicator, that’s on point with the early metrics America’s Got Talent scored for NBC on June 25. That 8-10 PM show went on to pull in 10.13 million viewers in the final Nielsen numbers – which could be what we see for the first of the two-night whirlwind event that last night featured Warren, Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Julián Castro, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee and John Delaney.

However, the fact is an audience of 10 million may just be the starting point for last night’s 9-11 PM ET live (and technically challenged) showdown hosted by Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balar.

Now, there is little chance that Wednesday’s jostling among Warren and the low-pollers will top the 24 million that tuned in for the Donald Trump-dominated GOP frontrunners debate of August 6, 2015, which aired only on Fox News Channel. However, the opening night of the Democrats’ pageant will surely match and looks to exceed the 16 million that watched the first Democratic debate of the 2016 campaign on October 13, 2015 on CNN with Hilary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and three other guys we’ve all forgotten.


Because last night’s debate, like tonight’s Sanders featuring debate, wasn’t just shown on NBC, but also MSNBC and Telemundo. On the cable newser, the debate grabbed an impressive 4.7/8, and on the Hispanic net, the sometimes in Spanish (mainly from former Obama cabinet member and ex-San Antonio Mayor Castro and failed 2016 Texas Senate candidate O’Rourke) snared a 0.6/1.

That’s a total of 12.2/22 in metered markets for the first night of the first Democratic 2020 primary debates – very good indeed for the NBCU gang, especially when you consider last night’s candidates were the B Team for the most part. The numbers-obsessed Trump will at least take some comfort in the fact that’s down nearly 20% from the first GOP debate in 2015 on FNC.

Still, add all that together, plus the NBC streaming data, and we could be looking at up to 18 million sets of eyeballs in total when all is said and done for last night’s debate.

Having said that, the just-released fast affiliates show 7.4 million watched on NBC alone. Yet, as with all live events like potential POTUS debates, SOTU speeches, award shows and sports games, those results are fairly fluid and will see change later in the day.

Elsewhere in primetime last night, CBS’ Big Brother took another hit from its Tuesday night season premiere, taking in 4.53 million viewers and a 1.1 rating, while The Amazing Race‘s Season 31 finale slipped from last week with a 0.8 rating and 3.81 million viewers.

ABC’s Elizabeth Banks-hosted revival of Press Your Luck (0.8, 4.20M), which was in the top spot last week, fell victim to a Whammy, off a tenth, while its game show cohorts Card Sharks (0.6, 3.32M) and Match Game (0.6, 3.11M) each slipped two tenths. Over at Fox, viewers didn’t respond fast enough to First Responders Live (0.4, 1.88M), which saw a dip in viewership. MasterChef (0.2, 2.64M) was on cruise control, on par with last week.

The CW aired a rerun of Penn & Teller: Fool Us as an appetizer to Jane the Virgin (0.2, 670,000), which continued to hold steady.

Deadline’s Dino-Ray Ramos contributed to this report.

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