Joe Biden may not have had a great night on Thursday, but NBC definitely did.
The second night of the first Democratic presidential debate brought in an average of 18.1 million viewers across three NBC networks, NBC News, MSNBC and the Spanish language Telemundo, and another nine million viewers watched via live-streaming online. In a statement, NBC said the debate night “made television history” and broke the record for viewership of any previous Democratic debate, citing Nielsen Fast National Data. About half of the total viewers fell between the ages of 18 and 54.
Indeed, the political event — which saw Sen. Kamala Harris take the spotlight when she pointedly criticized recent comments by former Vice President Joe Biden about his opposition to forced school integration — beat out tv’s previous 2015 record for Democratic debate ratings. That debate featured Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and was one of the first of that election cycle, too, but also came later in the year and did not have nearly as many candidates. That debate brought in an average of 15.5 million viewers.
The first night of the debates on Wednesday, which featured Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke, and eight other candidates, brought in an average 15.3 million viewers and just under nine million streamers. The broadcast was affected by some “technical difficulties” on live TV and online. Between the two nights, NBC said is pulled in more than 45 million views to “digital debate content” across all platforms and devices. It also noted that more than half of viewers who tuned into the first night of the debate came back for the second night.
Still, NBC’s Democratic debate audience fell far short of a Fox Republican debate in August 2015, featuring then-candidate Donald Trump. Fox said that primetime broadcast drew 24 million TV viewers, making it the most watched debate in TV history, as well as the “highest-rated non-sports cable telecast.”
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