First Democratic debate draws more than 15 million TV viewers

The deep stable of candidates pushed the initial debate to two nights, with 10 candidates squaring off each night. The second debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In First Debate Of 2020 Election Over Two Nights
Democratic presidential candidates New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, from left, Rep. Tim Ryan, former housing secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney take part in the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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By Jason Abbruzzese

Night One of the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle drew 15.3 million viewers across NBC, MSBNC and Telemundo on Wednesday night, suggesting strong interest among voters in hearing from possible opponents to President Donald Trump.

The deep stable of candidates pushed the initial debate to two nights, with 10 candidates squaring off each night. The second debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on Thursday on the same channels.

The ratings topped previous primary debates during the 2008 and 2012 cycles, according to data from the analytics firm Nielsen that were provided by NBC News. Those debates, however, usually aired on only one channel rather than three.

The ratings fell short of the primaries in the 2016 election cycle when then-candidate Donald Trump drew massive viewership. The Republican primary debate in August 2015 drew more than 24 million viewers on Fox News.

NBC News said its livestreams of the debate attracted more than 9 million viewers across a variety of digital destinations including YouTube and Facebook.

The first debate featured Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is among the candidates polling best for the Democratic nomination, though behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Vice President Joe Biden. Thursday's debate will feature Sanders, Biden and eight other candidates.