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Democratic debate ratings on CNN remain steady despite baseball playoffs

The TV audience is comparable to the second Democratic debate, which CNN also hosted. That debate drew 8.7 million viewers.
Democratic presidential hopefuls participate in the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by The New York Times and CNN in Westerville, Ohio on Oct. 15, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

The fourth debate among the Democratic presidential hopefuls drew 8.3 million viewers Tuesday night, a slight dip in viewership compared with recent debates that had drawn outsize audiences.

CNN, which aired the debate and hosted it along with The New York Times, said that the debate also drew 9.2 million livestream starts between Facebook and the digital platforms of CNN and the Times. The data was collected by the TV measurement firm Nielsen and released by CNN.

The TV audience is comparable to the second Democratic debate, which CNN also hosted. That debate drew 8.7 million viewers.

Viewership for candidate debates has remained high since the 2016 election cycle, when Donald Trump drove sizable ratings for Republican debates, including one on CNN that drew 22.9 million viewers.

While the Democratic debates haven't reached those numbers, Tuesday night's would still have easily topped TV ratings from the mid-2000s.

The fourth debate also went up against Game 4 of the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals, offering a tough choice for politics-focused Washington residents. The Nationals play their home games just south of the Capitol.

The Nationals won, sweeping the series and clinching the city's first trip to the World Series since 1933.

The first three debates each drew sizable audiences, though CNN's ratings as a cable channel lagged behind its broadcast competitors. Night One of the first debate drew 15 million TV viewers across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. The third debate attracted 14 million viewers on ABC and Univision.

Tuesday's debate featured another deep roster of 12 candidates including billionaire Tom Steyer, who did not make the stage for the first three debates.

The fifth Democratic presidential debate, which MSNBC will host along with The Washington Post, is scheduled for Nov. 20, and will offer a more direct comparison of cable TV ratings with CNN.

That debate will raise the bar for candidates to make the stage, including a requirement that candidates show 3 percent reporting in four qualifying state or national polls, or 5 percent support in two qualifying state polls.