Ratings are in for the first of CNN’s two Democratic presidential debates in Detroit, and they’re not great. The network presided over a significant decline in viewership following NBC’s debate broadcasts in late June.
Tuesday night’s ten-candidate match-up drew only 8.7 million television viewers. Politico, reporting on the “steep” drop-off, juxtaposed CNN’s overall numbers with NBC’s:
The June event brought in 15.3 million viewers across the three networks on night one, with 18.1 million tuning in for the second night, a Democratic primary record. CNN also announced that 2.8 million watched via live stream on the network’s platforms. NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo said they drew more than 9 million live-stream viewers on the first debate night in June across their own digital properties, along with social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
In fairness to CNN, June’s debates were the first of the cycle, and almost certainly benefited from all the heightened intrigue associated with that distinction. But a decline in 10 million television viewers from the last debate is eye-popping. If the networks’ livestream numbers are apples to apples—and I’m not sure that’s actually the case—the first debates attracted 24.3 and 11.5 million viewers respectively, meaning NBC would have more than doubled CNN’s overall viewership.
CNN’s debate barely managed to beat the season-high “Bachelorette” finale, which scored 7.15 million viewers on Tuesday. An average episode of “NCIS” for the 2018-2019 season pulled in 15.57 million viewers, for added comparison.
Whether Tuesday’s dramatic decline came courtesy of the network, the candidate line-up, or waning interest in the primary, CNN has plenty of ground to make up on Wednesday night.