Speed Reads

2020 Democratic debates

2nd night of Democratic debates sets a new ratings record

Viewership for the second night of Democratic debates far exceeded the first, with Thursday's event setting a new ratings record.

Overnight ratings released on Friday indicated a 15 to 20 percent increase for Thursday night's debate compared to Wednesday night's; the second night scored a 14.1 household rating, while the first got a 12.3, CNN reports.

These figures come from Nielsen, which later in the day will release final numbers showing exactly how many millions of people tuned in. But based on these overnight ratings, it may be close to 17 million viewers or more compared to 15.3 million for Wednesday night, CNN reports, also noting that Thursday's debate is now the highest-rated Democratic primary debate Nielson has measured.

The previous ratings record was held by the first Democratic primary debate of the 2016 election cycle, which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) participated in and which drew 15.5 million viewers. These viewership numbers don't factor in those who streamed the debate online.

This year's first night of debates was missing key front-runners in the race like Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Still, the first face-off, which featured Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former congressman Beto O'Rourke among others, performed much better in the ratings than NBC was reportedly expecting. Both nights of debates were carried across three channels: NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo.

It seems neither night, however, will compare to the first Republican primary debate of the 2016 cycle, in which President Trump made his debate debut and 24 million people tuned in. Still, The Hollywood Reporter notes that even Wednesday night's debate scored better ratings than every single primary debate in 2008 and 2012.