Final viewership numbers won’t be available until Friday afternoon. But the so-called “overnight” ratings, recording how many households tuned in, showed a 15 to 20 percent increase over Wednesday, which was night one of the two-night event.
The total viewership on Wednesday night was around 15.3 million viewers, just shy of the all-time ratings record for Democratic party primary debates.
The record was set in October 2015, when 15.5 million viewers tuned in to CNN for the first primary season debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The high ratings have exceeded the expectations of NBC executives and surprised others in the TV industry. Democratic officials have cheered the news.
NBC clearly benefited from its decision to carry the debate across three channels, including in Spanish on Telemundo.
And the two-night event benefited from enormous early interest in the presidential election.
The ratings still fall far short of the Trump-fueled records for Republican primary debates that were set in 2015. Trump’s first time on the debate stage, in August 2015, helped attract 24 million viewers to Fox News. His second time, the following month, helped draw 23 million viewers to CNN.
All of these totals come from Nielsen’s television ratings system, counting viewers who are at home watching on TV sets.