UPDATED, 11:48 AM: The candidates will be back onstage next month in a debate hosted by CNN and the New York Times, but now we know how Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and the rest did last night on ABC and Univision.
Coming in strong in early metrics, the three-hour primetime Democratic scrimmage drew 14 million viewers in total. That’s about 12.9 million on the Disney-owned net and 1.1 million on the Spanish-speaking outlet.
While up from the last debate between Democratic heavyweights on CNN looking to see Donald Trump fired next November, Thursday’s gathering was down 23% from the viewership that the Biden-led second night of the first Dems debates had June 27 on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
Take away – cable counts.
PREVIOUSLY, 6:26 AM: America didn’t get the big dust-up between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren that many were expecting Thursday night in the two leading Democrats’ first debate faceoff, though a lot of them tuned in to ABC looking for it.
Hosted by ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir, ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis and rather excellent Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, the meet-up in Houston saw the 10 top-polling Democratic contenders for Donald Trump’s job take on the absent incumbent and one another for nearly three primetime hours.
Facing an NFL game on cable and MLB over on Fox, the third debate by the Democrats for the most part lacked the anticipated fireworks between the front-runners but might have more than made up for it in the ratings.
In metered-market results, last night’s Democratic debate scored a 10.0 for the Disney-owned network, which also simulcasted the event on Univision. That’s a 23% rise over the Biden- and Sanders-starring Night 2 of the two-headed first debate on NBC on June 27.
Up more than 17% over Night 1 on the Comcast-owned outlet, that second-night scrimmage proved to be the most-watched Democratic debate ever with an audience of 18.1 million peering on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. Of that big number, 11 million watched on the Big 4 net – a number last night’s Lone Star state debate looks poised to exceed if the early metrics are an indication.
In fact, the ABC debate could top 15 million and maybe beat the overall Dems debate record once Univision numbers are factored in.
It’s a bit of an unfair comparison, all things considered, but the second night of debate on CNN in late July snagged 10.7 million viewers. Adding in CNN en Español, Night 2 of the second round of debates went up to 10.8 million, according to Nielsen.
Except for Big Brother (1.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demo, 4.58 million viewers), which had its biggest audience of the season so far in clear counter programming, CBS and NBC went for all encores last night as you can see in our chart below.
Still, even in the fluid fast affiliates, ABC was the clear winner with a 1.9./10 rating among adults 18-49 and 11.22 million viewers watching the debate. Right now Univision is averaging an audience of 1.02 million, but that will all likely tick upwards in the final numbers. Otherwise there was MLB (0.5/3) on Fox and The Outpost (0.2/1) and Two Sentence Horror (0.1/1) on the CW.
We’ll update with more Democratic debate ratings as we get them.